Sport for improving social, emotional and physical well-being for at-risk youth.

The decrease in physical activity and increase in screen time, and the lack of frequency of organised sport and physical activity among children are concerning from a public health perspective and is perpetuating the risk of under-developed, dis-engaged adults. 

Throughout Australia, children are becoming susceptible to a greater risk of obesity, truancy, life-long poverty, homelessness and crime.  

Social impacts, family violence, illiteracy and mental/physical health issues are creating challenges for youth as they attempt to cope with depression, anxiety, bullying, fear of the future and staying connected and engaged with school.

Better ways to regulate, educate and develop into an adult starts with self-awareness of a child’s abilities and early intervention to reinforce confidence and a positive attitude. We must, as adults, provide children with a fun and interactive way to grow in confidence, learn life-long social and personal skills, and improve on ways to communicate and build partnerships as a key component towards a future free of complex barriers that would normally subdue a child’s development.

Inclusion and retention of children in sport is easier if that child feels welcomed and that they are contributing. Benefits of sport participation include improved sleep, greater confidence and improved social and personal skills, that may lead to greater opportunities later in life. 

The Australian Government Department of Health “Sport Participation and Play” report, along with the Australian Government “Sport 2030” strategy, recognises the need for “a comprehensive plan to reshape the face of Australian sport and build a healthier, more physically active nation”.

The priorities identified include:

  1. Improve the physical health of Australians,
  2. Improve the mental health of Australians,
  3. Grow personal development and
  4. Strengthen our communities.

The Association for Applied Sports Psychology recognises that “Youth development programs are designed to prevent various social and well-being concerns, as well as enhance existing strengths in participants. More specifically, physical activity-based programs have been demonstrated as an effective strategy for improving the social and emotional well-being of at-risk youth”.

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