SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- In the past 30 years, obesity has more than doubled in young children and quadrupled in adolescents, potentially leading to a host of chronic diseases later in life. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), regular physical activity provides many physical benefits for children, but that’s not all. Daily exercise also promotes mental and emotional well-being and self-esteem.

“By now, I don’t think anyone is surprised that regular exercise is good for children. When you take a moment to consider the data on children who exercise and play organized sports, the details of a child’s future come to life,” says Danyel Surrency Jones, co-founder of Powerhandz Inc., a company specializing in athletic training products.

Danyel and her business partner and husband, Darnell Jones, a former pro basketball player, list five significant benefits of youth sports:

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Cultivates a positive attitude: Sports are demanding. Come game time, a young athlete won't last long with a negative mindset.

Offers a sense of accomplishment, confidence and self-esteem: Simply being physically active builds self-esteem. "We are physical beings who are not meant to sit in front of a videogame for several consecutive hours," Danyel Surrency Jones says. “If you’re a physically active adult, you feel that sense of accomplishment in outdoing your last performance at the gym. Kids feel a similar way learning new skills and succeeding in a game, except more so.”

Builds better peer relationships: Kids want to fit in, but it’s not always easy. Organized sports helps young people overcome social awkwardness. Team sports such as baseball, basketball and football demand participants to work together for a common goal, which is a valuable lesson some adults still haven’t learned while interacting at work. 

“I've witnessed the beneficial effects of sports first hand,” said Bruce Moran, director of Scotch Plains-Fanwood PAL Football. “My son has played baseball and football over the years and I have seen the growth he has made with both his confidence and social skills. His growing period was significantly boosted by his involvement in sports and I think it will continue to aid him through his life.”

More restraint in avoiding risky behavior: Bored or disengaged children have a way of getting into trouble. A student is less likely to misbehave in class or break the law if it means getting kicked off the team of a sport they love.

Greater family attachment and frequent interactions with parents: Famous athletes say it all the time, 'Thanks for driving me to and from practice, and thanks for showing up at the games.' And that doesn’t even count helping a child with actual practice – playing catch, squaring off one-on-one, etc. 

Baseball has remained one of the most popular youth sports, and president of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Baseball League, Neil Kaufman, knows parents play a pivotal role in young athletes’ careers.

“Youth sports are an education in life, and the parents' encouragement is a big part of that," Kaufman said, “There is no question that for both parent and child, these are times to remember. The support a parent gives to a child, the encouragement, the cheering, all of it is something the child will always remember and cherish.”