Neuroplasticity: Skills For Success

Youth sports’ participation is a platform for the development of essential motor skill sets, crucial to a child’s healthy physical growth. Additionally, sports participation secures all the benefits associated with physical exercises, such as greater blood flow to the brain, improved brain development resulting in a healthier and more active brain, allowing children to absorb more during their education. One extremely important aspect with regard to sports participation that has not been given due consideration is the wide range of life skills and abilities developed, skills that are essential to succeed at school, work, relationships and life.Numerous scientific studies, in addition to years of subjective observation, indicate that youth who engage in sport develop skills associated with teamwork, persistence, self-regulation, respect, hard work, self-control and responsibility.

The developing human body and mind adapt to the demands placed upon it, and sports are a brilliant way to create physiological and psychological demands for youth in an enjoyable healthy and valuable manner. Continual sports engagement, along with correct guidance from quality coaches allow young individuals to develop skills for success. Every action or skill that an athlete performs while playing sports involves the activation of neural pathways. Every action carried out, provides sensory feedback to the brain to process and adapt to. Constant practice eventually leads to a rewiring of the neuronal networks in the brain.

The ability of the brain to rewire itself in response to an activity (such as sports) is known as ‘Neuroplasticity’ and is currently a hot topic among neuroscientists world over. Several scientific studies have been published demonstrating evidence of neuroplasticity in an athletes’ brain, i.e. – the brain physically changes and grows with sports training and expertise. Neuroplasticity is responsible for physical or motor adaptions in sports specific skills, but also more general skill and ability based adaptations.

There are real measurable changes in the brain; changes in brain structure that respond to the demands created via sports participation. Changes that may be far more relevant to success in life than just the motor adaptations and sport-specific skills. What is really fascinating is that these general skill and ability based adaptations and lessons learned through playing sports are not thereafter restricted to sports. Once these skills become a part of the internal structure of the brain, an individual will be able to apply these skills in a range of different contexts outside of sport.

Thus, youth sports participation is not only a crucial factor for healthy growth and development of the body, the acquisition of motor skills, optimal academic performance but also provides an opportunity for to imbibe vital skills necessary to succeed in life.

01st January 2012