This article examines the benefits and disadvantages of participation in organized youth sports and describes a youth development approach to sports programming. The authors summarize what is known about the physical, socioemotional, and cognitive benefits of sports participation. These include health benefits (for example, a reduction in heart disease and diabetes) as well as socioemotional benefits, among them the coping skills of being able to bounce back from problems. The authors describe some of the disadvantages of participation as well. In particular, studies in this area have focused on health risk behaviors and engagement in problem behaviors. The authors present an innovative approach to youth sports and the advantages of implementing this approach using the emerging community youth development framework. Specific examples of youth sports programs are provided that use a positive youth development framework.
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