Mental Health Benefits in Youth Sports

May 22, 2024

By: Kevin Burton, Athletic Director, Chelsea Piers Athletic Club

Sports add so much to our lives - camaraderie, competition, and community, to name a few. For youth athletes, sports go beyond providing health benefits that impact nearly all aspects of their lives. Often underestimated is the profound impact sports participation has on mental health. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, we thought it worthwhile to share some of the benefits that youth athletics can offer:

Stress Relief

Given the seemingly endless stressors of modern-day life, particularly for teens, from academic obligations to social dynamics, sports provide a therapeutic outlet. The release of endorphins during physical activity acts as a natural stress reliever, easing tension and promoting mental clarity. Data supports that children who were exposed to adverse childhood experiences but participated in team sports reported better mental health in adulthood.

Emotional Regulation

Athletics provides a platform for individuals and teams to experience highs and lows. Challenges and setbacks are inevitable in the athletic journey and can help to nurture skills in mental resilience and grit. Overcoming injuries and bouncing back from defeat instills determination. Learning to manage frustrations, control impulses, and persevere through adversity equips athletes with indispensable coping mechanisms to apply throughout their lives.

Social Connection

Sports serve as a conduit to social interaction and foster a sense of belonging. Collaboration towards a common goal instills crucial teamwork and communication skills that enhance interpersonal relationships. If your child is shy or struggling with confidence, participating in sports can allow them to start feeling good about themselves.


Children need structured and unstructured play time as each adds different aspects to their development. The practice, training, and competition routine enables young athletes to develop consistency. Learning the value of persistence and reliability will have far-reaching benefits throughout the rest of their lives.

As a parent or caregiver, your hope is for your child to have a positive sports experience. We recommend letting them try many different sports to see which they gravitate towards. Start with shorter seasons or sessions where they can explore their interests and decide what is the best fit. And, of course, have fun with them along the way!

*Please note that Chelsea Piers staff, coaches, and employees are not mental health professionals. For mental health advice, please consult a licensed physician.

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