Exercise as it relates to Disease/The hidden benefits of team sport in youth self-esteem

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The following is a critique of the research paper "The link between children's sport participation and self-esteem: Exploring the mediating role of sport self-concept", from the journal "Psychology of Sport and Exercise". [1]

What is the background to this research?[edit]

  • “The link between children's sport participation and self-esteem: Exploring the mediating role of sport self-concept”. The main purpose behind this article was to determine if a child’s participation in team sports had a positive effect on their feelings of self-concept and self-esteem. The article also delved into the question of whether a child is benefited further playing a team sport compared to that of an individual sport. [1]
  • It is widely known that sport and exercise is beneficial both physically and mentally in the development of adolescents, particularly in areas of self-concept and self-esteem. Less is known about whether this participation also benefits younger children and therefore leads onto higher and healthier levels of self-concept and self-esteem as they go through adolescence and then into adulthood. [1]
  • Allowing children to participate in sport activities gives them the opportunity to not only construct sport capabilities but also allows them the chance to develop self-concept of their abilities.[2] Theories also suggest that a child’s time in sport has associations with not just a child's sport self-concept but also their overall self-esteem through childhood and later on in adolescence. (1) The key aim of this investigative article was to assess the associations between the time children spent in organized sport activities and their reported sport self-concept, and self-esteem during elementary school. [1]

Where is the research from?[edit]

  • This study was conducted in the mid-west of North America based on elementary aged public-school children of the European-American middle-class. There was minimal diversity seen across races, ethnics and classes. The article states the study was conducted nearly two decades ago, with this particular study being written in 2008. Many factors that influence a child’s opportunity to play sport have changed in the last two decades, many leading to the increase of sport participation in children. Therefore, is this data still relatable to our children now?
  • Both authors Carly B. Slutzky and Sandra D. Simpkins are university professors based in the school of social and family dynamics at Arizona State University. Making them reasonably established specialists in the area, although this article being one of the first for Slutzky and fourth for Simpkins. Simpkins has a history of previously written articles based on similar factors, one being organized activities and their effect on obesity and social marginalisation. [1]

What kind of research was this?[edit]

  • This particular study was a longitudinal school-based study. Due to the nature of the study, especially being based on children of a young age the use of parental feedback was necessary but perhaps not 100 percent reliable. Other studies completed of similar nature seem to have the same issue of being based off self-report and therefore the issue of bias, exaggeration or understating of the results comes into play.
  • Similar studies conducted on adolescents sees results being reported by the child themselves, which is perhaps a slightly more reliable outcome than that of parents but also has the possibility of being even less reliable depending on how honest the child feels they need to be with their results. An example of this method is seen in the research article “Team Sports Achievement and Self-Esteem Development Among Urban Adolescent Girls” located in Sage Journals.[3]

What did the research involve?[edit]

  • The study included three year groups of children and their families. Data was collected in 4 waves. In wave 1 the respective children were in kindergarten, year 1 and year 3. Wave 2 they were in years 1,2 and 4, wave 3 they were in years 2,3 and 5 and wave 4 they were in years 3, 4 and 6. Data was collected each spring within the classroom under the supervision of school staff and project researchers. Only parent-reported organized sport activities were included in this particular study. [1]
  • There were several limitations of this study. The first being this study was piloted nearly two decades before the article was written. Many factors may have changed over these two decades, including the fact that children’s participation in sport has been continually on the rise. The continues growth of women’s sport has also become an undeniable factor when compared to figures two decades ago.[4]
  • Other limitations included the fact that parents were the key source of result feedback, which perhaps could allow an element of bias to be brought into the study. The question is would parents really have accurately reported their children’s time in physical activity? This dependence on parent feedback may have increased error variance in the time children spent in sports.
  • The final limitation that can be noted is the key fact that the study’s findings were based around European-American, middle-class children. Although it can be seen that physical activity participation does not change noticeably across racial and ethnic groups, the way in which sport has an influence on self-esteem may change depending on the child’s race and cultural beliefs. [5]

What were the basic results?[edit]

Key findings included:

  • Children on average weekly spent more time in team sports than individual sports (1.2hr compared to .96hr)
  • Boys made up 66% of team sports participants but only 48% of individual sport participants
  • Children participating in team/individual sports were on average 9.8 years of age
  • Participants results reported high levels od sort self-concept and sport importance
  • Participant results showed on average they were well adjusted children (i.e. above average self-esteem and peer acceptance ratings were seen in results)
  • Overall proposed time spent in team sports was positively correlated with sport self-concept. Although no correlation was seen in time spent in individual sports and sports self-concept.
  • Overall researchers interpreted results as these findings showed that children who spent a higher amount of time in team sports felt they were more capable at sport, furthermore children who felt they were more capable in sport reported to have higher self-esteem than their peers who were found to have less involvement in team sports. [1]

What conclusions can we take from this research?[edit]

  • The study provides compelling evidence that a child’s participation in team sports correlates with their feelings of sport self-concept and furthermore overall self-esteem. A child who participates in team sports for a higher amount of time is reported to have higher levels of self-esteem than children who don’t participate to that level.
  • The key take away message from this study is in this current day and age of life being prioritised around technology and social media children’s battle with self-concept and self-esteem is evermore increasing. The aim needs to be getting children out and involved in as much physical activity as possible but in particular a higher amount of time spent in team sports. By doing this parents, carers and teachers should hopefully see the positive benefits in the growth of their child's feelings of self-concept and self-esteem and the associated benefits that comes with these imperative factors of mental health.

Practical advice[edit]

  • As shown above getting your child involved in team sports has the greatest benefit over their self-esteem, especially when compared to other forms of physical activity such as individual sports.
  • Playing a team sport particularly for the first time can be quite daunting for a child of any age. Therefore, some suggestions that may help influence getting them involved in a team sport are noted below:
  1. Allowing them to join a team with a few friends they may already know
  2. Letting them be involved in the choice of which sport they are interested in trying and want to play
  3. As a parent or carer setting an example by playing a team sport yourself or getting involved in their team (coaching/managing)
  4. Being positive and supportive in the child's abilities and enthusiastic in the fact that they are giving it a go [6]

Further information/resources[edit]

References[edit]

  1. a b c d e f g 1. Slutzky C, Simpkins S. The link between children's sport participation and self-esteem: Exploring the mediating role of sport self-concept. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 2009;10(3):381-389.
  2. 2. Biddle S, Mutrie N, Gorely T. Psychology of Physical Activity. Florence: Taylor and Francis; 2015.
  3. 3. Pedersen S, Seidman E. Team Sports Achievement and Self-Esteem Development Among Urban Adolescent Girls. Psychology of Women Quarterly. 2004;28(4):412-422.
  4. 6. [Internet]. Sport.nsw.gov.au. 2019 [cited 23 September 2019]. Available from: https://sport.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/women-in-sport-SPRINTER-evidence-review.pdf
  5. 4. Erkut S, Tracy A. Predicting Adolescent Self-Esteem from Participation in School Sports among Latino Subgroups. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences. 2002;24(4):409-429.
  6. 5. O'Sullivan b. Redefining Success: 8 Tips for Being a Great Sports Parent - Changing the Game Project [Internet]. Changing the Game Project. 2019 [cited 23 September 2019]. Available from: https://changingthegameproject.com/redefining-success-8-tips-for-being-a-great-sports-parent/