You Give and You Get: Sports, Skills, and Personal Growth

“Sports not only helped me develop discipline, time management, and perseverance but continue to serve as my happy place to blow off steam and recharge.” 

Our team at #WRT, composed of athletes, can effortlessly recognize that sports have played a huge role in our development. From a young age, we dip our toes into the pool of extracurriculars in hopes we find one that sticks and, more importantly, one that assists our development into adulthood. Ultimately, whether it is team-oriented or individual, sports are a crucial outlet for athletes to exercise their personal growth by reaping the benefits of physical health, mental health, and personal growth. The adrenaline and thrill of physical activity, coupled with repetitive opportunities to compete, create an environment in which we thrive, driven by the passion we have for our sport. Sports cultivate unique opportunities that lead to lifelong benefits, driven by the exhilaration, we stay “athletes” because of the benefits we reap on and off the field.


Physical Benefits of Sports

“Sports helped me cope with stress and improve my physical and mental strength and endurance. Now whenever I face a challenge, I know how to set goals, work hard, and learn new skills.”

Starting with the obvious, sports can benefit your physical health. Physical activity is good for your body – and your body will thank you in the long run.

Let us begin by considering some science-backed cardiovascular research: your cardiovascular system is composed of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. It is essentially in control of delivering oxygen from the blood and into the rest of the body. When on the field, in the pool, or on the mat, our bodies are working overtime; thus, our muscles need more oxygen to excel at the given activity. By partaking in the same activity over and over again, we can successfully train our cardiovascular system to deliver oxygen more efficiently (Claus et al., 2022). In addition, training our cardiovascular system can help sustain our future bodies and strengthen our stamina. Further, by making cardiovascular activities into habits, we can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease later in life and ultimately train our bodies to become more resilient to hard work (Claus et al., 2022).

Cardiovascular benefits are simply the tip of the iceberg. There are countless other health benefits that can be derived from sports like bone health, for example. Power sports (weightlifting, gymnastics, basketball, to name a few) involve moments that make your bones responsible for absorbing the shock factors – after repetition, these movements can prompt your body to create more bone density, which in turn, promotes strong and healthy bones (Claus et al., 2022). In fact, by participating in a power sport for at least one hour weekly over the course of 2-3 years, you could increase your bone density by 25% (Claus et al., 2022). 

What about healthy behaviors? Sports can even teach us how to practice behaviors that promote healthy lifestyles. In expansion, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation (2018), both male and female high school athletes are less likely to start smoking cigarettes (Project Play, n.d.). Based on this information, we can see how athletics can teach individuals healthy coping skills, as sports provide a positive outlet for blowing off steam.

Psychological Benefits of Sports

“Sports taught me how to work with a team, how to utilize leadership and also how to set boundaries.” 

Going beyond the physical benefits of athletics, there are psychological benefits of sports. Sports can be a vital part of positive mental health practices by making us more resilient to mental strains, building self-confidence, and promoting happiness. In contemporary times, the academic literature suggests that the physical activity we get from sports is positively correlated with reduced depression, as exercise is associated with positive changes in mood (Garcia Falgueras, 2015). In fact, the more frequently we engage in sport-related physical activity, our brains are stimulated in ways that have proven to decrease the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer's disease, by enacting a repair activation mechanism (Feltz, 1988).

When repetitively engaging in the same activity, we are able to gain a sense of mastery that translates into self-confidence. Self-confidence in relation to sports can be articulated into statements like, “I can do this”, or, “I believe in myself”, and can be described as one’s perceived ability to accomplish a task (Feltz, 1988). When we foster a sense of self-confidence within our sport, we are able to then relay the skill into our personal lives. For example, when faced with a challenge, we can recall the many times that we have overcome obstacles within our athletic careers that can instill a sense of resilience and ultimately help us prevail over the challenge.

Sports, beyond the ball-kicking or bat-swinging, have been proven to promote happiness through the community that they provide. More specifically, the team aspect of all sports can aid one's socialization and instill a sense of belonging, which is vital to adolescent psychological development (Bakır & Kangalgil, 2017). Participation in sports can help combat loneliness and social isolation, and provide experiences of flow and awe. This can elicit feelings of community, gratitude, and purpose which we know are tenets of a meaningful life. 

Benefits Beyond Sports

“Playing sports instilled foundational qualities like a good work ethic and tenacity in me as a young athlete. As I got older, sports also provided a community for me to learn from; I was able to reflect on who I wanted to be, what my values were, and why. And in no other part of my life have I been truly embodied than when I am competing and all the hard days of training coalesce into an objectively great performance. Those moments allowed me to understand that I can redefine what winning means to me, and that shift in perspective magnified my ability to progress as an athlete, as well as an individual outside of sports.”

Aside from the physical and emotional benefits of sports, athletes are able to redirect their skills from the field and into their personal lives. For example, this can manifest through meaningful social interactions: “According to the American Journal of Health Promotion, meaningful daily interactions contribute to lower levels of loneliness, stronger and more durable relationships, and thriving and self-esteem” (Project play, n.d, Through this, athletes are able to identify healthy relationships and will be able to reproduce them within their personal lives. Self-esteem is a crucial aspect of our personal development. By fostering confidence-building techniques within the athletic realm, we are able to become more confident and self-aware in our personal lives. 

In addition to meaningful social bonds, sports can contribute to an athlete's personal growth. By building these meaningful relationships with our coaches and/or teammates, we are essentially learning skills that can be articulated in our friendships, relationships with co-workers, and family dynamics. Let us consider “boundaries” as an example. The more that the athletic youth community can exercise and expose themselves to boundaries and/or boundary practice, the easier it will be to employ in their outside lives – it becomes a habit. These are valuable skills that surpass the athletic realm and can be used lifelong.


“Sports, especially equestrian sport, gave me resilience, perseverance, and patience skills which helped me immensely when dealing with the aftermath of being sexually assaulted. I hope that everyone finds a sport or activity in their lifetime which helps them develop not only as an athlete but leads them to the person they are meant to become.”

We continue to become increasingly aware of the interconnectedness of sports and society, and how producing ‘good’ athletes can ultimately translate into producing good people.

After reflecting on the physical, mental, and emotional positives that athletes can extract from sports, we are asking for your help to fill in any gaps that may have been missed. How have sports affected your life? Have you learned any life lessons exclusively from your sport? How has your commitment to athletics inspired you to become a better person? 

Sophia Tauro

Masters of Psychology Student

Completing Social Justice Practicum with #WeRideTogether


Bakır, Y., Kangalgil, M., & , (2017). The Effect of Sport on the Level of Positivity and Well-Being in Adolescents Engaged in Sport Regularly. Journal of Education and Training Studies.

Claus, C., Miller, J., Miller, T., & , (2022). What Are the Health Benefits of Organized Sports?. Frontiers for Young Minds.

Garcia-Falgueras, A., & , (2015). Psychological Benefits of Sports and Physical Activities. British Journal of Education Society & Behavioural Science

Feltz, D. (1988). Self‐Confidence and Sports Performance. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 16(1), 

Project Play. (n.d.). Youth sports playbook 

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