Walking home from school on a dark rainy day. Students wondering how they will complete the massive workload being thrown onto them. As each day passes their anxiety gets stronger and stronger. All they need is to take their mind off it for a bit to calm them back down and increase their self-esteem.

Sports can be a great way for young people to get away from the stress of school, make new friends, increase self-esteem, and improve productivity.

During the last year with COVID-19 worries, and the changes in school schedule, many young people found it all too much. Having to memorize a whole unit of math and complete a project for another class all in one week can really take a toll on a student’s mental health. Aaron Evans, a Grade 11 student from Riverside weighed in on this issue. “Personally, sports really help me calm down and get away from the business of the everyday school life, especially when I have multiple projects due in the same week. Sports just really helps me keep my mind off it all.”

Sports can also have a very positive effect on a student’s self-esteem. Higher self-esteem also has numerous amounts of benefits in one’s life from putting negative things into a positive perspective to helping someone cope in hard times. A February 2020 study by Ohio State University concluded that sports can be therapeutic for students and help them in various ways inside and outside of school. The university’s study also found that “students in sports clubs were better socially adjusted, felt less anxious, and were generally happier about their lives.” This increase in self-esteem can be important in students as so many of them feel they have a lot of pressure from teachers to parents to do well in school. They always feel like they just cannot live up to their parents’ expectations.

This increase in self-esteem can also improve a student’s school productivity. Playing sports or getting any physical activity increases endorphins, which in turn affects mood; a happy state of mind helps students when they go to work on a project. Sports also help in group projects as they can enhance creativity, critical thinking, and helps with communication and collaboration skills. “For me sports helped me when it comes to work and school as I can communicate with coworkers and fellow students about my ideas and get the job done efficiently,” said Evans.

Another powerful antidote to stress and anxiety that sports or group exercises can provide is connecting to others.  Sports can improve mental health by giving students more friends to talk, to help them when they are in a tough patch in their life. This can be super helpful for someone battling with mental health especially if their new friend is accepting and will always be by their side no matter what happens. The Mental Health Foundation of the United Kingdom concluded that friendship “is a crucial element in protecting our mental health. We need to talk to our friends, and we want to listen when our friends want to talk to us. Our friends can keep us grounded and can help us get things in perspective.”

Riverside students’ mental health can benefit from playing recreational sports or any organized physical activity with others, even something like playing golf, or going for bike rides. Playing sports helps with self-esteem, productivity, and making new friends. While many students at Riverside not want to play an organized sport, it is recommended that they find a way to be active, releasing all those natural hormones that help reduce stress in stressful times.