Youth athletics are a sport category in which competitors under 18 years old participate. This includes activities which are individual and team based, outside of school or within school, and both competitive and non-competitive sports. Sport is one of the most popular activities among youth all over the world. The sports with highest popularity are football/soccer and swimming. Advocates claim that sport can contribute to international, national and local efforts to maintain or improve children's health. Through participation in athletics, youth gain the information, skills, personal and social resources, and support needed to succeed with key life transitions.
Benefits of sport
Participation in organized sports during childhood and adolescence has important benefits for physical, psychological, and social health. Sport based youth development programs outside of school promote a wide range of learning and life skill development. Involvement in youth athletics encourages youth to live a healthy and happy lifestyle, foregoing the common issues many youth face such as obesity and depression. However, sport involvement goes beyond health, other benefits allow them to form and strengthen affective relationships, teach youth to value self-improvement over winning, how to be competitive in a competitive society, and to work culturally with different peers and authorities.
The practice of sport fosters young people’s physical and emotional health and builds valuable social connections. It also offers opportunities for play and self -expression especially for those young people with few other opportunities. Sport also acts as a healthy alternative to harmful actions such as drug abuse, and involvement in crime. Beyond the individual, sport involvement cuts barriers that divide societies, making it a powerful tool to support conflict prevention both symbolically on the global level and practically within communities.
Possible concerns in sport participation
The number of dropouts reaches a peak in the adolescent year,s and the most important reason for not playing sport are “not having enough time,” “no interest anymore,” and “other leisure activities.”.
Negative experiences can be created through a sport that is overly focused on competition and winning at all costs or that fails to place the healthy development of youth at the center of the experience. Such negative experiences may result in a young person’s low self-esteem, involve them in negative relationships, encourage poor sportsmanship, permit aggression and violence, allow racism, perpetuate gender discrimination, or expose them to psychological, sexual and commercial exploitation and abuse. Many of these negative experiences can be avoided when parents and coaches are chosen carefully, ensuring that programs offer a positive development experience for youth.
Injuries have always been of concern in terms of sport but youth are much more susceptible to injury considering both their immature musculoskeletal system and increasingly high intensity training. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, participation in organized sports is on the rise. Nearly 30 million children and adolescents participate in youth sports just in the United States. This high rise in sport participation has led to some startling statistics, high school athletes account for an estimated 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations each year. The most common types of sports-related injuries among youth are sprains, muscle strains, bone or growth plate injuries, and repetitive motion injuries.
Inequalities in sport
Global South nations tend to have less access to organized sports because the politics of their countries do not have the resources to have leisure and entertainment influence their lives. Children in Global South nations have less opportunity to attend school where majority of organized sport takes place. Sport programs within the community provide children marginalized by poverty, gender, disability, family dissolution, ethno-cultural background and conflict with family, crime and other lack of opportunity.
In Global North nations, the evolving and complex youth sport system requires significant resources such as time, access, and money to develop as an athlete and play competitively. The financial costs involved in facilitating organized sport at an elite level ranges from an average of a few thousand dollars per year, to more than 20,000 dollars per year in some sports. For these financial reasons, participation is not feasible for a majority of kids growing up in lower income families.
In recent years, youth sports have become more expensive in the United States. The financial burden of organized sports has grown, and children from low-income families are less likely to participate. The single greatest predictor of whether a child will start playing organized sports young, is whether their household income exceeds $100,000 per year.
Gender conditioning often starts at an early age where boys and girls are taught behave differently and participate in certain activities. While there is no doubt that girls' sport participation has skyrocketed in recent decades, a gender inequality in youth sports still exists. The "separate but equal" ideal of gender in youth sports is very much prevalent in society and its contradictions inherent a strategy that pushes for both individual equal opportunity and categorical separation of the sexes. Team sport participation peaks at age 11 and participation in sport by girls are high and continuing to increase. However, frequent participation by both boys and girls in team sports is declining.
Girls are more likely to enter sport later than boys and are more likely to take part in cheerleading, dance, competitive jump roping and volleyball while boys tend to stick with more traditional sports such as baseball, basketball and football. No matter the sport, the benefits of participating remain. With this said, the gender gap in the global south is much larger than that of the global north based on significant power relations and religious beliefs, specifically within Muslim communities in countries like Bosnia, Egypt, Morocco, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. For many, religion is a way of life in which sporting and educational institutions are culturally constructed by cultural and religious dynamics, as well as political, social, and economic factors.
The gap between participation in sport in the global south and the global north can be due to a shortage of physical education, a lack of financing, few sport facilities and little equipment and no capacity to host major sporting event in the global south. Other limitations for people living in certain countries may include a lack of accessible transportation, education and lack of understanding of the sport. There are also several social and cultural barriers faced by youth living in the global south that impact sport participation. A few of these are religion, culture and language.
Youth sports programs
The Sport for Development and Peace organization was found in research by Simon Darnell to have positive outcomes on the twelve-year-old boys participating in the program by promoting time management and personal responsibility. This helped the boys fit into the goals of self-regulation required in neoliberalsocieties. The nature of sport in itself also showcased leaders and those willing to make sacrifices for the sake of their team and also their families.
The Culture, Education, Sport and Ethics program (CESEP) is an international outreach initiative to engage teachers and student from different countries and cultures in the dialogue of healthy sport. This program seeks to create collaboration among teachers, students under 18, and counselors to exchange ideas about sports and culture in an educational program. T
The International Olympic Committee’s Sports for Hope program, located in Lusaka, Zambia, enhances national sports development through organized sports competitions, camps and clinics. They organize seminars for coaches and sports administrators as well as community development services. The program has an educational component about important societal issues, including girls’ empowerment, civic participation, HIV/AIDS, malaria and other health issues for athletes and the general public. The center offers indoor and outdoor sports fields, lockers, a gym, a boxing hall, classrooms and a variety of sports.
Games and championships
- IAAF World Youth Championships in Athletics, organized by the IAAF every 2 years
- Youth Olympic Games
- Asian Youth Games
- Commonwealth Youth Games
- European Youth Olympic Festival
- Australian Youth Olympic Festival
- International Association of Athletics Federations
- European Athletic Association
- Gender in youth sports
- List of world youth bests in athletics
- Junior (athletics)
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Media related to Youth sports at Wikimedia Commons