Team vs. Solo: Kids’ Sport Choice May Affect Mental Health

From Smithsonian:

“…[A] study, published today in PLoS ONE, finds that kids who played only individual sports, like tennis or gymnastics, tended to face more mental health difficulties, such as anxiety and depression or troubles with concentration, than peers who played no sports at all. Youngsters who participated exclusively in team sports, on the other hand, were less likely to experience these issues than those who didn’t play any sport. Finally, the kids who dabbled in team and individual sports were no more or less likely than those who abstained from sport altogether to have mental health trouble.

The findings are based on a huge database that tracked the mental health and sports participation of more than 11,000 kids ages 9 to 13 from across the United States—many thousands more than prior studies that have tried to tease apart the impacts of team versus individual sports.

Matt Hoffmann, a sports psychologist at California State University, Fullerton and the study’s lead author, cautions against jumping to conclusions based on the results….For example, it could be that children already predisposed to better mental health tend to gravitate towards team sports, or even that their parents tend to steer them that way. Or, it might be that individual sports are more prone than team sports to create situations where a child experiences acute anxiety about their performance or perhaps their appearance or body type.

Hoffmann’s take is not to recommend discouraging youth participation in individual sports, it’s to encourage parents and coaches to be aware that young wrestlers, dancers or swimmers might experience added stress or anxiety and to support them accordingly….”

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