The Correlation Between Team Sports and Mental Health

By Melissa Wickes
October 10, 2023
2 min

Teamwork makes the dream work, right? But actually. Studies show that there are many proven mental health benefits of team sports. Playing team sports can improve a person’s mental health, especially at the youth level when tweens and kids are most vulnerable. In this installment of mental health in youth sports, we’ll discuss team sports and mental health and how participating in them can help children cope with anxiety and ward off depression, as well as the many other life benefits team sports can have on the kids that play them.

The positive correlation between team sports and mental health

Playing a team sport can have many positive mental health effects on children, and research shows that athletes who participate in team sports feel less of the depression or anxiety that individual sport athletes may experience. Teams  also allow for peer support both on and off the field, which can contribute to many positive experiences for children including:

  • Social acceptance
  • Decreased body dissatisfaction
  • Fewer depressive symptoms 
  • People to rely on 
  • Improved peer interaction
  • Improved social skills

When an athlete loses at an individual sport, for example, they can often feel like they are the only one to blame for the loss. This pressure and sense of failure can cause anxiety in competitions to come, and even depression down the line. When an athlete plays with a team, they have others to go through the hard times with and someone to share the loss with. 

According to a study of 9,668 children, children who were exposed to adverse experiences throughout their childhood reported better mental health as adults if they had participated in team sports as kids.

The social benefits of team sports

When a child is part of a team, they not only have people with a common interest and goal to spend time with at practice, but it can often go beyond the field. Organizing out of practice social events like pasta parties and ice cream outings are a great way to get the team bonding and foster friendships. 

Why teamwork is important

Beyond the mental health benefits of team sports, learning how to work as a team is something that will benefit children for years to come in life. Playing team sports helps children learn to be cooperative and work together toward a common goal. These skills are essential to effective teamwork, which can help individuals be more successful in school, work, and life.

For example, effective teamwork makes people more efficient, accountable, and reduces the risk that a project becomes derailed. When people are able to effectively work together, it boosts the overall morale associated with the project.