How to Boost Mental Health in Youth Soccer Players
May 31, 2023
Any long-term or consistent activity in a child’s life will have an impact on their mental and physical health, whether positive or negative. As a coach and/or parent, use this guide to ensure soccer is being used as a positive force on both mental and physical well-being.
The importance of mental health in developing brains
During childhood and adolescence, the brain is still developing and is heavily impacted by its surroundings. This includes family, friends, school circumstances, sports, access to resources, and trauma to name a few.
Essentially, anything can impact a developing brain because both positive and negative scenarios are collected. These experiences mold cognitive and social-emotional skills. How a young brain develops is the foundation for how that young person will fit into an adult role in society.
Young people process stress and trauma differently than adults do as their brains are still developing. The mix between genetic predispositions and sustained stress can create
mental-health problems, such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, that carry on into adulthood. These are some of the many afflictions that can affect a person in stressful environments.
Stress or trauma as a child doesn’t just affect brain development chemistry, it also affects other pillars that create well-rounded adults, such as understanding social cues, participating in activities, and performing well in school. All of these factors contribute to social skills and adaptability in adulthood. This is why focusing on mental health in developing brains is crucial.
Many sports can have an impact on mental health. In this article, we’ll look at how soccer can have a positive impact on both the mental and physical health of a child or adolescent, especially when they’re using the proper youth soccer protective gear.
How soccer boosts mental well-being
Soccer is a team sport and oftentimes will include team-building exercises and events to give players the opportunity to form connections and bonds with others. It’s another chance in a child’s life to make friends, develop social skills, and learn from others. Especially for more introverted children, soccer provides a fun place to open up and explore new possibilities.
Coaches are ideally promoting teamwork so players learn to have each other’s backs and help one another, which increases empathy and communication. Teamwork also gives players a boost in self-esteem and a sense of community when they feel they belong.
As an adult, in the workforce, people need to communicate with one another, meet new people, and constantly build new relationships. Playing soccer gives young people the foundation to do this as an adult.
A motivated child is often happier, more driven, and healthier. Motivation can come from other players in the team, a constructive coach, and encouraging parents. Soccer can foster an environment where children and adolescents feel they can try new things, make mistakes, and learn from them.
Motivation helps inspire self-improvement and encouraging behavior toward others. If a player feels they can achieve anything playing soccer, they can transfer that skill to other aspects of their lives.
This is a huge necessity for younger people as they’re often faced with confusing, scary, and overwhelming experiences. As children grow, they experience many firsts and confidence can help them navigate tricky decisions without feeling as lost or confused. Improving their soccer skills and being a valuable member of a team will fill them with the confidence needed to navigate life.
A toddler isn’t necessarily expected to control their emotions when their outbursts are based on needs they can’t meet themselves. But as a child grows, they need to start learning how to control their emotions and turn them into clear, coherent thoughts. This is a difficult skill to learn, and one many adults haven’t mastered either.
Soccer introduces children to some difficult emotions: loss, embarrassment, guilt, and jealousy. Even positive emotions, such as triumph and pride, must be managed to avoid hurting others. However, the team’s and coach’s support, and the routine that soccer provides, help manage intense emotions in healthy and constructive ways.
The physical aspect
Exercise releases endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine which combat negative emotions and generally fill a person with positive feelings. Soccer players can experience a serious mood boost by playing regularly. Once this pattern is recognized, children are more likely to pursue the sport to feel good, which is incredibly beneficial since it affects both their physical and mental health.
Soccer will also tire out any player, which helps manage intense emotions and improves sleep. When the game is played under the sun, there are even more benefits: an improved sleep-wake cycle, vitamin D, and exposure to nature.
Leadership and team-building skills
These are skills adults need in the workplace and in their daily lives when confronted with responsibilities from family, extracurriculars, pets, and more. As a team sport, many children will get the opportunity not only to work as a member of a team but try their hand at being a leader.
Different plays will require different leaders. Whoever has possession of the ball needs to take the lead and decide the next move. These are transferable skills to create a more well-rounded adult.
3 ways to use soccer as a mental-health boost
There are so many positive impacts that playing soccer has on youth. To make sure they get to take advantage of these perks, implement these three strategies as children and adolescents play soccer.
1. Start at a young age
Brain development starts at an early age, so offer support for the entirety of its development, starting young. There are soccer programs for children as young as two years old. This starts them off early with skill-building and healthy, social environments. Have them use the proper youth soccer protective gear.
2. Don’t focus on results
Focusing on results before the proper skills have been developed can discourage children and have them focus so much on winning that they neglect their own health and happiness. At the end of the day, youth soccer should be about physical activity and fun. Many youth soccer programs will use participation medals to this end so everyone feels equal. This is a valid option, but don’t forget that children must also learn it’s okay to lose and it’s okay to win.
3. Get others involved
To further boost the sense of community, support, and belonging, the team should be more than just the players; it should include invested friends and family. This strengthens existing relationships as well as new ones. It also provides the extra backing children need when faced with tough situations and consequences.
Strategies to boost physical well-being
The easier concept to understand is that soccer boosts physical health since it’s a sport. Soccer impacts the following aspects of a player’s physical health:
- Aerobic capacity and cardiovascular health
- Body fat, muscle tone, and bone strength
- Strength, flexibility, and endurance
- Injury avoidance
- Endurance and agility
To take advantage of these benefits, including the injury avoidance factors, players should wear youth soccer protective gear. And as the focus of this article is on mental well-being through soccer, they must wear youth soccer headgear to keep their brains safe as they develop.
Shop youth soccer head protection
Come browse Storelli’s renowned youth soccer protective gear. While the brain is developing, so is the rest of the body. We offer protective equipment to keep a child safe throughout the whole game, head to toe.
Check out the youth soccer head protection specific to children. Experience all the amazing benefits that soccer has to offer with Storelli by your side.