A new study says teenage boys who play sports are more likely to binge drink, smoke and engage in violent behavior. According to ABC News, researchers surveyed 13,000 high-school students, and found that boys who play team sports, like football and basketball, are 40% more likely to binge drink and 30% more likely to fight, than non-athletes. The more high-contact the sport, the more likely the teenage boy is to show violence in other areas of his life.
The study came as a total shock to many child development experts. The conventional wisdom on team sports is that they help kids develop character and make healthy lifestyle choices like exercising and eating right. Other studies have found that kids who play sports are less depressed and stay away from drugs. So what accounts for this one hundred and eighty degree turnaround?
The lead author on the study, Susan Connor, says it looks like there are risks AND benefits to playing sports. She says sports start to have a negative effect on boys when the focus is too much on winning and competition. When that happens, morals and values go right out the window and the team becomes more like a gang. The boys try to one-up each other, and their behavior gets out of control.
The other problem is that high-school athletes are often put on a pedestal by their school and their community. They receive preferential treatment and, a lot of times, they don't have to deal with consequences when they step out of line. Child development expert, Judith Myers-Walls says their egos are too immature to handle their new “icon” status, and they start to think they don't need to live by the same rules as “ordinary” people. Myers-Walls says sports can be incredibly beneficial, but parents have to stay involved and make sure that student athletes – and coaches – are keeping the game in perspective! When the game becomes more important than schoolwork or values, it's time to pull the plug.