Growing kids' brains through sports
Organized extracurricular sport activities for children help them develop and improve cognitive skills, such as greater concentration capacity, that can greatly help them in the classroom, says University of Montréal professor Linda Pagani.
"We worked with information provided by parents and teachers to compare kindergarteners' activities with their classroom engagement as they grew up," Pagani said. "By time they reached the fourth grade, kids who played structured sports were identifiably better at following instructions and remaining focused in the classroom.”
In addition to being a professor at the university's School of Psychoeducation, Pagani is also a researcher at Montreal's CHU Sainte-Justine Children's hospital. Her work focuses on childhood development and the identification of factors that impact on kids as they grow up, with a view to helping parents, teachers and organizations to prioritize positive activities and behaviors. Some of her most recent research looks specifically at the impact of team sports.
“There is something specific to the sporting environment -- perhaps the unique sense of belonging to a team to a special group with a common goal -- that appears to help kids understand the importance of respecting the rules and honoring responsibilities," Pagani said.
Pagani is presenting her research in Chicago at "The Fundamental Importance of Free Movement and Organized Extracurricular Sport Activity for the Cognitive Development of the Child: The View From the Field," a scientific symposium organized by Coni-Italian National Olympic Committee USA and the Italian Cultural Institute in Chicago.
Mico Delianova Licastro, the Italian National Olympic Committee's U.S. representative and organizer of the symposium, underscored that Pagani's findings support the work his organization has been undertaking for years.
"Coni is keenly aware of the need for children to start at a very early age to engage in an active lifestyle and to participate in organized sports in and out of school when of the proper age," Delianova Licastro said. "Coni is present in several countries with large populations of citizens of Italian descent, like here in the USA, to organize for the children of our communities' all-in sports competitions and to promote a healthy diet."
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