When you think of the Y, you think of youth sports. Every weekend parks and gyms are filled with kids playing soccer, basketball, flag football and more. Many people associate YMCA youth sports with younger kids, but doors are opening for high school-aged athletes to play too.
The YMCA of Snohomish County wants all kids to experience the benefits of playing a team sport, including teenagers. All six Y locations have expanded their youth sports programs to offer flag football and volleyball for boys and girls through age 18.
“If athletes don’t play for their school teams, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for teenagers,” says Chris Bellecourt, Association Director of Youth Sports. “Our goal is to provide a safe, fun environment for anyone who wants to play, regardless of skill level and experience.”
High school sports rosters are typically limited to a certain number of players, leaving many students without the opportunity to participate. The Y offers a place for all to play and experience the benefits of being part of a team.
“We’re very excited about our new volleyball league specifically designed for high school boys,” says Bellecourt. “There is a place for everyone in our leagues. If you want to play, there is a spot for you. We focus on skill development and healthy competition through weekly practices and games.”
Youth sports teach confidence, teamwork, sportsmanship, and other skills critical to healthy youth development, but they can particularly benefit teens’ physical, emotional and mental health.
Countless studies have shown that physical activity releases endorphins (the body’s natural mood boosting chemicals), reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and improves sleep; all essential elements for maintaining positive mental health. Participating in team sports has also shown to enhance resilience, empathy and empowerment and reduces the risk of teen substance abuse and other reckless behaviors.
“There are so many benefits to being part of a team,” says Bellecourt. “Playing a sport you enjoy with your friends is a lot of fun. All of the other health benefits are an added bonus.”
Financial assistance is available, eliminating barriers youth may face in participating on a team. The Y also offers a significantly reduced-cost annual membership for students eligible for the public school Free/Reduced Lunch Program.
To learn more about youth sports at the YMCA of Snohomish County, please visit ymca-snoco.org/sports.
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