Team Based Extracurricular Activities Good for Mental Health of Students
It has been observed that team
based extracurricular activities that nurture a sense of belonging with peers
are good for pre-teens mental health, according to researchers at University of
The study was done o extracurricular activities undertaken in Grades 4 to 7 involving 10,000 students in 383 schools in 36 school distrcts across British Columbia. The researchers found that participating in team sports in particular provided benefits for mental health – more than non-participation in extracurricular activities and more than participation in individual activities, such as tutoring, music lessons and individual sports. Experiencing a stronger sense of peer belonging fully explained the positive relationship between participation in activities including team sports and better mental health.
Tracking participation in
activities over time, the researchers also found that during middle childhood
and early adolescence, young people tended to participate – or not participate
– in the same combination of extracurricular activities, with little change
over time. Youth who didn’t participate in extracurricular activities in Grade
4 but had joined activities including team sports by Grade 7 reported better
mental health over time, which was attributable to a stronger sense of peer
“It’s a stronger sense of belonging to the peer group, not necessarily the activity itself, that seems to drive the mental health benefits of participating in activities that included team sports,” said lead author Eva Oberle, assistant professor in the school of population and public health and a researcher with the Human Early Learning Partnership.
“The results of our study shouldn’t be interpreted as ‘team sports are good’ and ‘individual activities – like tutoring or music classes – are not,’” she said. In fact, another recent UBC study found that high school students that engaged in school-based music programs, such as band or orchestra, had higher levels of academic achievement over time. “The key point is that extracurricular activities that allow children to establish meaningful relationships with their peers can support their positive mental health. Group activities like team sports may naturally do this, whereas other activities may need to deliberately integrate some additional strategies to better support peer connectedness.”
“Because there are benefits of extracurricular participation, and participation and non-participation in extracurricular activities seems to relatively stable over time, we need to support young kids to get involved in activities early on,” Oberle added. “It’s important for communities to think about how they can make activities accessible for all children, ensuring fees aren’t a barrier and offering activities at accessible locations, for example on school grounds and right after school to make them accessible for children with working parents.”