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EDITORIAL: Let's keep the fun in kid's sports

This city might have been built thanks to diamonds and gold but the real treasures have always been the youth.

And you can’t raise functional, happy and productive kids without a healthy dose of physical activity.

There are many studies that highlight the benefits of youth sports for children, from acquiring motor skills to promoting good weight management.

Keeping the body healthy and active has psychological benefits as well.

One study suggests that organized sports participation may be helpful for kids who are dealing with childhood trauma.

The study was published in May in JAMA Pediatrics, and found that people who had experienced traumatic events as children had better mental health outcomes as adults if they had participated in team sports during adolescence.

The American study, which looked at a sample of 9,668 people, said, “Among children affected by adverse childhood experiences, team sports in adolescence was associated with less depression and anxiety in young adulthood.”

This study shows that though youth sports might be fun for all parties involved, there are a lot of life lessons that can be learned through playing.

Sports teach kids how to train and work hard; to learn to win gracefully and to lose appropriately and all this helps children develop resilience.

Residents should all be very proud of our young athletes who go out there and compete in national tournaments. Of course, many of the sports programs in the territory depend on organizations like the Aboriginal Sports Circle and the Sport North Federation. They also depend on devoted parents, educators and coaches who face logistical challenges that simply do not exist in other parts of the country.

Sometimes, to play something as routine as a basketball or a volleyball tournament, a team of Northern athletes need to embark on epic journeys via jet, ferry, van and even snowmobile.

They do it at great cost. They do it because the challenges are part of the fun of playing sports. They do it to compete.

At national tournaments, our athletes are sometimes overmatched by provincial teams with 10 times the funding and deep talent pools.

But our athletes are not pushovers. Some of you might recall that Yellowknife’s Wilson Elliot won a bronze medal in judo at the Canada Winter Games in February. There’s little Luke Dizon who cleaned up at the Alberta Indoor Track and Field Championships in 2017. There’s also the talented table tennis player Zachary Mathison of Weledeh Catholic School who happened to set several track and field records at the NWT Track and Field Championships in Hay River this June.

Then there are the truly admirable young athletes in this city who thrive despite adversity, like Riley Oldford who is the inspiration behind Yellowknife's first sledge hockey team.

Our young athletes are winners, no doubt about it, but especially in younger children, all of this should spring from the child’s desire to get out there, play and get healthy.

According to a 2014 report from Statistics Canada, The NWT had the highest proportion of residents who were obese (33.7 per cent) in the country. The overall Canadian obesity rate was 20.2 per cent.

So, let’s keep finding ways to make sure that sports participation stays fun for kids, so they can enjoy the benefits of physical activity and fitness.