What does “player development” mean? What are the goals of player development? We here at EXACT Sports think about this question all of the time (after all, it’s our job!). The way we see it is that the goal of player development generally takes two forms: 1) developing skills that allow the individual to excel in his or her sport; 2) developing characteristics in the individual that he or she can take with them beyond the sport. While EXACT is well known for its work helping athletes achieve the first goal (e.g., our work with soccer camps, baseball camps, hockey camps, our player development services provided to pro sports groups like the NHL, MLS teams, colleges, etc.), we have also spent quite a bit of time researching and providing services that support the overall healthy development of youth. In a later blog post, for instance, I’ll be sharing a summary of the research we were asked to present at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America earlier this year that discussed these issues.

This post, however, I wanted to share some really interesting research that has been coming out of the scientific journals. I thought it was very compelling and relevant to healthy youth development and it shines a positive light on the value of sports participation… particularly, participation in soccer and participation of females in soccer. In a series of articles published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, researchers found a few very interesting findings:

  • For females, participation in soccer resulted in a longer-term commitment to an active lifestyle than did female participation in running/jogging. The reason for this is because soccer created a sense of community and teamwork, whereas running was a more individual-focused sport. Researchers believe the reason that females had a higher long-term commitment to soccer is because the focus of soccer was social in nature, rather than an individual mandate to “get in shape”.
  • Males showed less worry when they were playing soccer than when they were running. This is particularly interesting. Soccer was more successful at making its participants feel happier, more motivated, and engaged in playing the game than running/jogging.

These are just a few choice bits of the abundance of research showing how playing sport, and soccer in particular, yields healthy benefits even beyond just the physical fitness component. I thought it was interesting to cite this new research because it dovetails with EXACT’s own work in understanding and promoting healthy youth development.