News stories constantly remind us that a greater percentage of kids today are heavier than they were just 20 or 30 years ago. The reasons are numerous including poor food choices and video games replacing outdoor activities. The evidence is clearly observable. The nation’s children are becoming fatter but they don’t have to. Eating healthier foods and getting more exercise is the obvious solution and to that end soccer is the best option for the majority of children. Playing soccer offers benefits beyond improving assorted health concerns including learning team and leadership skills, self discipline, competitiveness and it builds self esteem among many others.

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Joining an established organized soccer association that features regular practices, games and qualified coaches offers kids a learning experience like few others. They may not possess any athletic skills at first but by season’s end will likely progress further than they expected. This in itself is a life-long lesson, that with effort they can achieve and even surpass a goal. They will finish something they started even though the routine of practice and initial thrill of the sport may become more tedious as the season progresses. Smaller aspects of the routine such as getting there on time every time is a discipline they will use both now in the classroom and for a lifetime as well.

Soccer is a fun sport for all ages and skill levels. Kids acquire health benefits without even knowing it. During a game the average a soccer player runs seven miles with a combination of endurance running and sprints which develops both short and long muscles fibers. Cardiovascular health and endurance is improved along with flexibility by a method that does not negatively impact the body in the way football, baseball and basketball often does. Playing soccer encourages children to exercise regularly which reduces the risks associated with obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

The social benefits of playing team soccer include making new friends while learning to interact with many types of personalities, forming new relationships, contributing to a team goal through individual effort, leading, following, communicating effectively under a (somewhat) stressful situation, encouraging others, trying one’s best and dealing emotionally with the lows and highs associated with competitive sports, all important skills that will benefit the child for a lifetime. While part of a team, a child can develop these and other social skills with less chance of facing embarrassment because the crowd doesn’t focus as much on the individual but on the team as a whole.

The benefits of playing soccer are many but some parents may be concerned the time spent in an organized sport might detract from schoolwork. However, studies have determined that kids who play sports tend to achieve scholastically at a better than average level. This may be due to an increase in bodily energy and endurance which boosts cerebral activity. In addition, learning to balance sports with school at an early age will translate to successfully balancing work and home activities including say, soccer practice for their kids, later in life.

Not every child has the body type needed to be a superstar athlete and even those who do don’t usually know this at an early age. Soccer is a sport they can benefit them whatever the age and physical ability. If they find they do have exceptional athletic skills they can move on to competitive soccer using all the lessons and skills learned from their youth. It’s also an exceptional way for kids and parents to bond. Kids too seldom receive deserved praise from their parents which they yearn for and parents all too often don’t have many opportunities to interact with their kids on topics both are interested in. Soccer is healthy for minds, bodies, relationships and families. It’s the perfect sport.