The hidden benefits of sport

With headlines trumpeting the issue, we’re all aware that childhood obesity is a growing problem. While there is a lot of focus on the physical positives of sports for children, development positives receive far less attention.

This is according to professional life-coach and motivational speaker, Godfrey Madanhire.

Madanhire, former educator turned owner of a successful motivational company, Dreamworld Promotions, still does a lot of work and has a soft spot for our future generations.
“That sport is an important part of a child’s physical development is well-known, however, the developmental aspect is often overlooked. Participation in not just sport but organised sport, allows children to increase their physical activity and helps them develop important social skills.”

Madanhire, who also assists corporates with wellness training for their employees, finds that many executives who had a strong base in organised sport as children understand and traverse the challenges of adult life considerably easier than those who didn’t.

“Sport allows children to learn and understand the key skills needed in co-operation and teamwork. In addition to this, organised sport reinforces the importance of individual responsibility to children. For instance, whilst as a member of a football team there is the paramount need to work in tandem with the rest of the team, each player also has an individual responsibility in seeing to the success of that overall strategy.”

Sport teaches the importance of following the game plan, but also being able to adapt it to rapidly changing situations.

“All these skills prove invaluable throughout adult life,” Madanhire says.

Unfortunately, whereas parents of yesteryear could rely on schools to be the main arena where children’s’ organised sporting needs were met, and where at the same time the developmental and physical importance of organised sport for children were recognised, many of today’s schools are closing sporting and physical education programs due to budget constraints.

Initiatives such as the African Brothers Football Academy (ABFA) provide hope.

ABFA is a social sporting initiative based in Cape Town with hopes of rolling out to the rest of the nation. ABFA allows members of the public to register for social football activities for a fee. Its core activity, however, is allowing disadvantaged children to join the academy at no cost.

According to ABFA’s Managing Director Pieter Wesselink, their mission is not only predicated on simply getting kids involved in sports.

“By having both privileged and underprivileged children  playing together in a safe and regulated environment we also look to the developmental growth of kids by fostering cohesion across societal barriers, a much needed element in South African society.”

Wesselink also notes the difficulties some parents face in getting their kids interested in sport.

“Kids have become used to a sedentary lifestyle, but there are simple ways in which you can motivate them to get involved.”

Wesselink believes that the best way to overcome this is to introduce your kids to an active lifestyle as early as possible. “The younger, the better,” he says.

“Additionally, nothing gets a child more excited about sport than seeing their parent also involved.”

“A child who knows that a trip to the soccer field also means a solid hour of playing with dad, or mom, is a child who will look forward to that activity.

“That it’s also great exercise for mom and dad, and a bonding opportunity for the family, is just a bonus point in the game of life,” says Wesselink.

 Did you participate in sports as a child? Would you agree?
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