Adolescents deal with a tremendous amount of stress. From peer pressure to homework, children deal with a wide array of stress factors in their lives. Traditionally, school faculty and medical professionals have viewed exercise such as interscholastic sports. As an excellent means of combating youth stress.
However, sports participation isn’t a stress panacea. Athletics can actually be extremely stressful if approached the wrong way. Here’s a brief look at how sports can both help and hinder stress relief.
Teens experience a great deal of stress.
- 27% of teens experienced extreme stress during the school year.
- 30% stated that they were depressed or sad because of stress, as noted in the Stress in America survey.
- 31% felt overwhelmed due to stress.
- 36% noted that stress made them tired, and 23% noted that they’d missed or skipped meals because of stress.
- 39% of those that skipped meals noted that it happened one or more times a week.
- 31% stated that their stress had increased over the previous 12 months, and 34% expected to stress to increase within the next year.
40% of parents sourced for an NPR poll noted that their high-schooler experienced a great deal of stress during the school year. The primary cause was usually academics
24% of parents said homework caused most of the stress. 50% of students sourced for one survey noted that they spent 3 or more hours on homework each night.
Another study showed that teens’ average stress level was a 5.8 out of 10 during the school year. In comparison, during the same time frame, adults reported a level of 5.1.
An NYU study found that nearly half of reported students felt a great deal of stress daily.
Benefits of Sports
Exercise can help to reduce stress, but many teens don’t exercise regularly. Teens who exercised reported lower stress levels. 20% of stressed teens reported that they only exercised once a week. Stressed out teens spend an average of 3.2 hours online each day. Comparatively, non-stressed out teens only spend 2 hours a day.
One survey looked at 850 students who participated in track and field, soccer, basketball, and other high school sports.
- They were asked to note how frequently they experienced depression and stress. They also had to complete three mental health assessments.
- Researchers found that the students who participated in sports were healthier mentally than students who didn’t participate in sports.
Participating in school sports from 12 to 17 years of age helped to prevent instances of poor mental health from occurring up to four years later.
Another study showed that adolescents between the ages of 8 through 12 who participated in sports experienced less stress as adults than those who didn’t participate in sports.
But Athletes Still Experience Stress
Athletics is not a cure-all. Young athletes will still experience ample amounts of stress.
Baseball players average heart rates of 170 beats per minute while at bat. 20% of soccer players surveyed in one study indicated that they experienced high levels of stress before games and many reported higher levels of stress after games as well, especially if the team lost. Another study estimates that 5 to 10% of players experience excessive stress.
When coupled with homework and other pressures, even student-athletes can be stressed
Interscholastic athletes are also encouraged to specialize in one sport. Playing more than one sport can lead to burnout, or overreaching. One study noted that 30 to 35% of adolescent athletes reported overreaching. Feeling burned out can negatively impact other aspects of life.
Some young athletes can burn out as early as 9 or 10 years of age.
One study showed that players often feel pressured by coaches to play while injured. Each year, there are 2.6 million emergency hospital visits for young athletes from ages 5 to 24.
Parents and coaches can create added stress for athletes. 30% of those who quit a school sport attributed it to the negative actions of parents and/or coaches. Negative actions include yelling, swearing, and name-calling.
High school coaches need to make sure that they don’t overstress or overwork their young athletes.