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How having youth sports back changes things for mental health

Physical activity the best way to fight depression
Youth Sports
Posted at 4:24 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 20:47:56-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — There’s no doubt the absence of youth sports affected children in many ways, including their mental health.

For many student-athletes, it’s been a tough year. Sports not only serve as a way to keep some students off the streets, but Kern Behavioral Health underlined that physical activity is also one of the best ways to fight depression.

“Our youth need to be together. That’s the bottom line," said Ellen Eggert, program support supervisor at Kern Behavioral Health.

The return of youth sports is not only good for children’s physical well-being, according to Kern Behavioral Health, but their mental health could also receive a boost too. Officials said youth sports serve as a path for everyday students who want to do team activities, but perhaps most significantly, it will serve as an opportunity for student-athletes to claim a part of their self-worth back.

“In high school, whether it's football, baseball, whatever, even youth because it starts very young. It is who you are,” said Eggert.

“Wanting to see kids joyful again, wanting to see kids run around with their friends, wanting to see kids have high school memories,” said Ron Gladnick, a football coach at Torrey Pines High School.

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At a news briefing Thursday, Let Them Play, a San Diego-based grassroots organization composed of parents, coaches, and student-athletes advocating for bringing youth sports back, explained what it means to them to be able to compete again.

“To finally be back out there with the guys and just having fun and doing what kids should be doing. It was so amazing. It was so fun to just be finally back out there with the team,” said Nicholas Gardinera, senior, Scripps Ranch High School.

Ellen Eggert of Kern Behavioral Health said that one of the best ways to cope with depression is physical activity. So athletes that may have been feeling down during the pandemic, might have had an extra hurdle since their sports were essentially gone.

“I think everybody is taking every second of practice with much more value now that we know what it’s like to not have football there,” said Gardinera.

Eggert also said a return of youth sports is good for those who lost a season of competition, a major disappointment that she says weighed heavily on the minds of kids looking to be recruited for bigger opportunities. she says Thursday's news serves as a reminder to everyone, not just athletes, that keeping active is a great way to beat the pandemic blues.

“Hopefully, with everything opening up, we can get back into that,” added Eggert.

It is unclear how the California Department of Public Health will update their guidelines in response to the settlement.