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Sports serve as source of confidence, determination

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he popularity of sports is on the rise. According to a June 2015 study conducted by Gallup, 59 percent of Americans are fans of professional sports, compared to 54 percent in 2007.

While many enjoy watching professional athletics, playing these sports is a also hobby for others. Ranging from the physical sports of basketball and football to skill-based endeavors such as golf, sports are each highly enjoyable activities for hundreds of millions around the world. Such an intense fervor for these ‘games’ in general raises quite an interesting question: what is the reason people enjoy sports?

Jenelle Gilbert, a professor of Kinesiology at California State University — Fresno and a certified consultant with the Association for Applied Sports Psychology (AASP) explained that there are a multitude of positive reasons for why millions across the globe enjoy sports.

“When kids start out [in sports], they start out because it’s fun, and they continue because it’s fun and some of them like the competitive nature of sports,” Gilbert said. “Some like playing sports to accomplish something and some like the feeling of satisfaction and confidence they receive from sports. As adults, oftentimes people also use sports as a way to relieve stress and find social outlets.”

According to a recent study conducted by the Statistics Brain Research Institute, teammate camaraderie was the main reason for participating in an organized sport for 65 percent of 36,000,000 surveyed athletes.

Senior Ali Siddiqui, who plays varsity soccer, shares this reasoning. Siddiqui, through countless hours of practice and long road trips with fellow teammates, has developed many acquaintances throughout his high school soccer career, which has led Siddiqui to believe that sports bring people close and develop relationships, and with good reason.

“Sports help you a lot,” Siddiqui said. “They teach you about teamwork and working with others. They also help create new friends. A lot of people I know are through soccer, and they have become great friends of mine.”

Several institutes, including the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, have proved this positive impact. They state the significant benefits of participating in sports include a stronger family connection, development of leadership skills and a positive impact on academic studies.

For sophomore Joe Pulickal, sports provide a variety of positive benefits. While he has no official team affiliation, he enjoys playing sports not only for enjoyment with friends, but also because of the psychological benefits they provide. Basketball, in particular, helps him relieve the daily stress he accumulates from school.

“I really do enjoy playing sports,” Pulickal said. “I like to impress people whenever I play, and it’s fun to see their reactions. By doing this it also helps with making more friends because I can relate more to certain individuals.”

While there is no doubt that sports provide numerous positive benefits, there are also negativities particularly associated with organized sports, Gilbert said.

This includes burnout, defined as physical or emotional exhaustion from overindulging in a specific sport. Also included is unhealthy stress from coaches, teammates or the player themselves. However, like anything, these negativities can be solved.

“One of the best ways to alleviate the stress or mitigate some of these negative consequences is to play in season in terms of the burnout issue and to really go back to why we even play sports from the beginning: to have fun,” Gilbert said. “People can also work on their mental skills training. They can work on how to deal with their stress, they can work on developing positive thinking skills and they can work on developing good focus.”

Gilbert concluded with stating that her prior experiences with sports have caused her to have mixed feelings toward athletics; however, she still said sports can be a wonderful experience and millions find satisfaction indulging in them, so really, they can affect individuals in different ways.

“I can’t support that sports are good because I have seen too many bad things, heard about too many bad things and experienced too many bad things,” Gilbert said. “But, there are a lot of benefits. They can be a wonderful outlet, and are a lot of fun. They can provide a lot of opportunities for people. But I think like anything, we have to think about sports critically. Sports can be good and bad.”

What do you like about sports? Leave your comments below. 

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