Youth Sport And Mental Health

Authored by: Guy Faulkner , Katherine Tamminen

Routledge Handbook of Youth Sport

Print publication date:  January  2016
Online publication date:  January  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415840033
eBook ISBN: 9780203795002
Adobe ISBN: 9781134469932


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Mental health could be described as a type of resilience that enables us to enjoy life and to cope with adversity. More formally, mental health has been defined as a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his own community (World Health Organization, 2001). There is a convincing evidence base that supports the existence of a relationship between physical activity and a number of dimensions of mental health among children, youth and adults (Ekkekakis, 2013). However, much of this research has concentrated on adults and has tended to focus on exercise – a subset of physical activity in which the activity is structured, often supervised and undertaken with the aim of maintaining or improving physical fitness or health. Less emphasis has been placed on exploring sport participation and mental health. A number of reasons might explain this. First, researchers examining physical activity and mental health are usually focused on controlling the dose of exercise an individual receives while eliminating potential confounding variables (e.g. interacting with others) in order to explore potential associations (Taylor and Faulkner, 2014). Yet this may be difficult if not impossible in a sporting context where sports differ in terms of, for example, the level of competition, whether the sport is an individual or team sport, and whether participation is organized or informal in nature. The influence of parents, peers and coaches is also likely to be highly variable.

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