The benefits of youth sports are numerous. Kids learn the value of hard work, the importance of improvement, how to win and lose graciously, and how athletic pursuits can also be fun. A couple hours every week participating in a sport can lead to skills that translate into every aspect of a person’s life in adulthood.
One amazing benefit that is often overlooked is that youth sports generally turn kids into better citizens, more willing to volunteer to their communities. Study after study has shown this correlation, not just for high school athletes, but for younger children as well. Rather than wait for this spirit of volunteerism to emerge later in life, youth leagues can provide community outreach opportunities for their teams and players. The skills players can learn from these efforts are extraordinary:
Players Improving Their Leagues
For many leagues, entry fees don’t cover everything. Corporate sponsors help, but often, some sort of fundraising is necessary for organizations to do everything what they want to do. Players who contribute to this fundraising are doing their part to improve their leagues. The fundraising can be direct, such as selling candy or popcorn tins, or somewhat indirect, such as clothing drives (many nonprofits will partner with organizations on drives and split the profits) or rummage sales. Even if fundraising isn’t the goal, players can volunteer in other ways to contribute to the success of their leagues—consider events such as preseason field preparation and facility cleanups in which the kids are doing the work to improve where they play.
Making an Impact in the Community
Plenty of outreach opportunities outside leagues are available for teams and players. For example, the parks at which your organization plays baseball might need a cleanup apart from the fields. The kids play there—baseball, other sports, and simply on the playground—so asking them to help make the parks beautiful is logical. The players benefit, but so does the entire community, and that community will remember that your league (particularly if pictures and videos from the cleanup are posted on your league’s website) was instrumental improving the parks for everybody.
The Value of Teamwork
Youth sports promote teamwork, but adding a community outreach opportunity takes that teamwork to another level. Many rosters are filled with players who do not interact with each other outside of practices and games; sure, you might have a few kids who are friends on the same team, but rarely is a team a whole group of friends outside the sport. Volunteer events give these teams a chance to work together and interact without worrying about drills and final scores. Friendships are strengthened—perhaps into relationships that last beyond the season and beyond their years playing youth sports.
As already stated, a great benefit of youth sports are the life skills that are imparted upon players. Volunteering also imparts life skills as well—that working toward the well-being of others is worthwhile, that community is important, that sacrificing time and energy for seemingly nothing return is a valuable experience, and so on. Connecting both creates wisdom that is normally not seen in kids, who learn the value of hard work not only for themselves, but also for their teammates, their league, and their community. Moreover, community outreach can lead to fantastic memories as wonderful as, hopefully, the actual sport will.
What kind of community outreach activities has your league participated in?