A Not-So-Obvious Benefit of Sports
For generations now, schools and government programs have been conducting what is called “refusal skills training.” These efforts are designed to keep kids from engaging in unhealthy practices such as smoking, doing drugs, eating junk food, etc. And unfortunately, it is clear that these efforts usually fail. While the kids are enthusiastic about what they have learned for a while, by the time they are teenagers they are too often doing exactly what they have been told not to do.
So if refusal skills training is largely futile, what can you do to keep your child from starting health-damaging habits? Well, there is no easy answer, but one thing I’ve found that works pretty well is to promote incompatible behavior. If a kid is highly motivated to achieve something and smoking, drugs, and junk food will prevent him from getting to his goal, he is far more likely to avoid those things.
That is another reason why I recommend getting kids involved in sports. If you want to excel in football, basketball, baseball, golf, tennis, track and field, swimming, or even ultimate Frisbee, you know you can’t be puffing on cigarettes, popping pills, or wolfing down Twinkies on a regular basis. Although it is not always the case, the motivation to become a champion usually trumps the motivation to rebel against the admonitions from adults.
Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Mike”) is a member of the management team at Romp n’ Roll. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also held a position as a researcher with the Harvard Preschool Project. He may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.