17 Benefits of Playing Youth Soccer

Soccer is one of the most loved activities for kids all over the world, including here in the United States. A study by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association found that approximately 2.3 million kids aged 6 to 12 currently play soccer in the US. It is one of the most popular youth sports, behind only baseball. And the benefits of playing it are tremendous. 

What are the best reasons to play youth soccer?  Soccer helps kids to develop physically, mentally, and emotionally. It builds their character and teaches many life lessons that they can take into adulthood. But the thing that kids love most about it is that it is tons of fun.

Today we are going to let you know some of the best reasons to get your child involved in organized youth soccer. Let’s get started!

The Top 17 Greatest Benefits of Playing Youth Soccer

We could talk about the benefits of playing youth soccer all day. But today we are going to discuss the top 17 most significant benefits of playing the sport. These benefits will help children of all ages and skill levels.

1. Improves Physical Fitness and Health

One of the well-known benefits of playing youth soccer is that it improves health and fitness.

Obesity and illnesses like diabetes are a real problem with children today. A big part of the trouble is that kids are much more involved than previous generations in sedentary activities like computers, video games, and TV.

Youth soccer is one way to get kids moving again. And it will most certainly improve their health and fitness.

According to the World Health Organization, kids ages 6 to 17 need to do at least 60 minutes of moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity every day. WHO says that most of that time should be spent doing something aerobic.

Kids that do more than 60 minutes of activity every day will get even more significant health benefits.

Kids should also do activities that strengthen the muscles and bones at least three times a week.

Organized youth soccer is an excellent way to meet these physical fitness requirements.

Youth soccer also leads to better health and fitness into adulthood. A study by Harvard showed that adults who played organized sports when they were kids were far more likely to be physically fit as adults. Kids who play sports like soccer are also more likely to be active as adults.

2. Increases Strength and Stamina

Another physical benefit of playing youth soccer is that it increases strength and stamina. Playing soccer games and doing practice-time drills, strengthens muscles and bones, and it improves heart health.

As kids get stronger, they will be able to better move around the field at high speeds. They will also have more stamina. That will come in handy when they are playing a real game. It will give them the energy to do every other physical activity in their lives too.

Studies have shown that playing youth soccer is particularly great for building explosive strength and endurance. Many sports, including soccer, require more fast-twitch muscle fibers. Those are what you need to jump, sprint, and kick. The training that kids do for soccer will build them.

3. Improves Agility, Balance, and Coordination

Soccer improves gross motor skills too. Gross motor skills are abilities that allow you to use the large muscles in the arms, legs, and torso to complete whole-body movements. By improving gross motor skills, kids will have better agility, balance, and coordination.

Most adults use their gross motor skills to do everything from yard work to gym workouts, and for the most part, these skills feel easy and automatic. However, they are quite complex and need to be worked on starting at a young age.

They involve the coordination of the neurological system and muscles. These brain-body connections are built when kids play soccer. Gross motor skills are also the basis for fine motor skills used for smaller movements.

Soccer has even been shown to improve the gross motor coordination for children with autism.

4. Promotes Hard Work, Perseverance, and Discipline

Organized youth soccer is also an excellent way to teach kids the values of hard work, discipline, perseverance, and dedication. These are important life skills that will help kids in every aspect of their lives, including their schoolwork.

Soccer teaches and requires a great deal of discipline. Each player must be able to pass accurately, control the ball, and work for good field position.

Kids will be faced with rough tackles, hostile opponents, and even biased referees. There are dozens of emotional challenges in every game. Being able to control their emotions and show discipline could mean the difference between a big win and a loss.

5. Teaches Teamwork

Kids involved in youth soccer also learn how to work together with others as a team. There is a big focus on teamwork in soccer. Every player has a vital role to play. The attackers’ primary duty is to score goals. Defenders try to stop their opponents from scoring. And midfielders have a job to back up the defenders.

To be successful at soccer, you must trust your teammates to do their jobs. A team is not just one player. The different skills and experiences of all the players working individually and together help build confidence in one another.

It is a beautiful and valuable life lesson to teach kids how to function as part of a successful team. Being able to trust, relate to, and communicate with others is a skill that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

6. Increases Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

Soccer teaches kids to have higher self-esteem and self-confidence too. Learning how to perform together as a team to move the ball successfully down the field and scoring goals (or blocking goals) makes kids feel good about themselves and their abilities.

Research done by the University of Florida showed that soccer especially helped young girls to improve self-esteem and self-worth.

One way that you can help your child’s confidence is to give them the room to make mistakes. It’s also crucial that you do not put too much emphasis on winning. Winning a big game is fun, no doubt, but it’s not the most important part of playing soccer.

One of the best things that you can do for your young soccer player is to support them with positive reinforcement. That will do wonders for their self-esteem.

7. Positive Effects on Mood

Research also shows that kids participating in organized youth soccer have better mental and emotional health. Southern Methodist University and Boston University found that physical activity helped reduce depression and anxiety in kids.

Playing sports like soccer has a natural and positive effect on kids’ moods too. “After just 25 minutes, your mood improves, you are less stressed, and you have more energy,” said the doctors.

Researchers in Canada found that kids who participated in soccer “had greater well-being, including being better socially adjusted, feeling less anxious, and generally being happier about their lives.”

8. Stress Reduction

Along with improving mood, playing youth soccer also helps with stress reduction. The physical activity results in the release of feel-good endorphins. And it teaches kids how to deal with stress.

Running and kicking helps them to get their frustrations out in a healthy way.

Research done at Ohio University found that many American kids are stressed out, particularly about schoolwork. But the kids who participated in organized sports like soccer reported feeling less stress than their classmates who did not play sports.

9. Promotes Social Interactions

There is an increasingly growing body of evidence suggesting there is an underlying reciprocal relationship between playing soccer and emotional and social development.

The physical activity involved in playing youth soccer requires core emotional, social, and cognitive competencies. Soccer builds and promotes social skills.

The sport encourages kids to work together to achieve a common goal. Organized teams create an incredible bond between the kids. They have to learn how to trust and depend on each other. These again are valuable life lessons that will carry them into adulthood.

10. Teaches Good Sportsmanship

One of the benefits that we love most about youth soccer is that it teaches respect for others and good sportsmanship. Coaches do not permit temper tantrums or lashing out. Instead, they teach the kids how to handle their frustrations and emotions in a healthy way.

Let’s face it. No team is going to win every single game. There are bound to be some losses along the way. Coaches and parents will have a big impact on teaching the kids how to handle loss respectfully.

This is a hard lesson to teach kids, but organized youth soccer does a great job of it.

11. Improves Concentration and Focus

The physical benefits of playing youth soccer are obvious. It helps kids to stay in shape and healthy. But it goes much further than that. As we have discussed, soccer teaches life lessons like responsibility, discipline, accountability, self-confidence, and teamwork.

And that’s not all.

Studies have shown that physical activities like soccer increase the blood flow to the brain. Soccer helps the body to build more connections between the nerves. That means that kids who play soccer will experience enhanced memory, increased concentration, and better-developed problem-solving skills.

To put it simply, playing soccer helps your brain to grow and makes it function better in sports and school.

12. Promotes Cognitive Development

As we just discussed, youth soccer promotes cognitive development. In fact, it helps kids to perform better in school.

In a 2009 study, researchers found that student-athletes had better grades than their less active peers. One reason for that could be that physical exercise makes the brain work more efficiently. Another reason could be that school-aged kids are usually required to maintain a certain grade point average to play school sports.

Other studies show that there is a significant relationship between participating in sports like soccer and cognitive functioning and academic behaviors like school attendance.

The research shows that kids who participated in organized sports had higher achievement test scores and higher math scores than students who did not play sports. Playing soccer has also been associated with fewer disciplinary problems, higher GPAs, and lower drop-out rates.

13. Builds Leadership Skills

Kids learn valuable leadership skills when they play organized youth soccer. They learn how to help each other and work together as a team.

Most soccer teams will also have a captain and co-captains. This allows for the kids who are natural leaders to shine.

Sports psychologists have identified four things that all captains should be:

  • Caring
  • Courageous
  • Consistent
  • Credible

Captains set an example for the whole team. But you do not have to be a captain to be a leader on a soccer team. The truth is that leadership can come from the bottom as well as the top.

Leadership doesn’t necessarily mean taking charge either. When something is in your wheelhouse, like mastering a new pitch, for example, you can become a natural teacher and leader, even if you don’t wear a C on your chest.

Any player can take on the role of coach and provide insight and support for their teammates.

14. Improves Hand-Eye Coordination

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. How can soccer improve hand-eye coordination when you are not allowed to use your hands? Well, there are times that you use your hands like when you throw the ball into the field of play or when you play as a goalkeeper.

But maybe a better way to put it would be that soccer improves your foot-eye coordination. Or your head-eye coordination. The point is that soccer helps kids to see and then react. It improves overall coordination.

15. Teaches Kids How to Win and Lose

In life, we all experience wins and losses. Both can be challenging to deal with. Kids who play youth soccer can learn at an early age how to both win and lose with dignity.

We’ve gone over several valuable life lessons that kids get from playing soccer. Some of the other lessons they learn include:

  • Practice makes everyone better
  • Focus on just the things that you can control
  • Don’t dwell on mistakes
  • Keep learning and growing
  • Stay positive
  • Celebrate success
  • Be a true team player
  • Win and lose with dignity

16. Promotes Healthy Competitiveness

Healthy competition is a great thing for kids. Psychologist Dr. Sylvia Rimm says that competition is essential for kids because it teaches them the lifelong lesson that failure will occur. She says that kids who play soccer learn to identify problems, remedy deficiencies, reset their goals, and grow from the experience.

Kids are going to make mistakes. We all do. It’s just a natural part of life. But having a high tolerance for failure is essential for the development of confident and resilient people. Making errors is just part of the learning process.

Kids will learn how to grow from mistakes when they are faced with healthy competition. That competition encourages risk-taking and persistence, which is vital for success in the real world.

Another significant advantage of competition is that it gives kids a reason to motivate themselves. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers found that kids in a competitive environment play longer than their peers in a non-competitive environment.

The competition also gives kids a greater sense of competence. Doctors say that children who are intrinsically motivated exhibit more positive behaviors like persistence and creativity. They also tend to have higher levels of self-esteem.

17. It’s Loads of Fun!

Perhaps the best thing about playing youth soccer is that it is tons of fun. Some of the most fun parts of playing soccer include:

  • Running fast
  • Playing with kids from your neighborhood
  • Scoring goals
  • Winning awards for goals scored
  • Halftime snacks
  • Wearing your favorite number jersey
  • Shooting
  • Playing defense
  • Goal celebrations
  • Playing goalie
  • Teamwork
  • Passing the ball
  • Learning new skills
  • Coaching by mom or dad
  • Headers
  • Getting to play a full season of games
  • Practice drills

A Final Thought

As you can see, there are many incredible benefits to playing youth soccer. But even beyond your child playing the sport, soccer can be a great way to bring the whole family together.

Watching soccer matches with your kids promotes family bonding. It also increases attention and focus. It is a wonderful way to show your kids that you are interested in them and what they care about.

Watching soccer together as a family is also an excellent way to teach your kids about countries around the world. 

Perhaps watching the pros will inspire your child to try a new skill or yearn to travel to distant lands. Watching incredible soccer players is also an excellent way for your child to learn more about the sport. We have found that soccer enhances social interactions and connections. It allows for friendly rivalries and competition too.

We have given you 17 excellent reasons to get your kid involved in youth soccer. There are countless more. But the best benefit is that soccer teaches lessons and develops skills that will last a lifetime.

Sources:

World Health Organization

Harvard

PLOS Journal

CalPoly

University of Florida

Penn State University

Ohio University

Aspen Institute

University of Rochester

Health.gov

US Youth Soccer

Institute of Public Affairs

New York Times

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