University of South Australia research identifies sports as key to children’s wellbeing

Whether it’s sports practice, music lessons or a casual catch up with friends, when children are involved in after-school activities, they’re more likely to feel happier and healthier than their counterparts who are glued to a screen.

In a new study conducted by the University of South Australia and the Department for Education, researchers found that children’s wellbeing is heightened when they participate in extra-curricular activities, yet lowered when they spent time on social media or playing video games.

Published in BMC Pediatrics, the study analysed data from 61,759 school students in years 4 to 9 (via the 2018 South Australian Wellbeing and Engagement Collection), assessing the average number of days per week children participated in after-school activities (3-6pm), and measure these against wellbeing factors – happiness, sadness, worry, engagement, perseverance, optimism, emotion regulation, and life satisfaction.

It found that most students watched TV about 4 days of the school week and spent time on social media about 3 days of the week.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one in seven children (equivalent to about 560,000 children) have a mental health disorder, with one in 10 children having concerning levels of wellbeing.

Lead researcher, UniSA’s Dr Rosa Virgara says the research highlights an acute need to encourage children participate in activities other than screens.

“Helping children develop a good sense of personal wellbeing is paramount in today’s uncertain environment,” Dr Virgara said via University of SA.

“This is especially important for primary school-aged children as they’re learning about the challenges and risks that full-time school can present; but it’s equally important for teenagers who are facing a range of physical, social and emotional changes.

“Our study highlights how some out-of-school activities can boost children’s wellbeing, while others – particularly screens – can chip away at their mental and physical health.

“Screens are a massive distraction for children of all ages. Most parents will attest to this. And whether children are gaming, watching TV or on social media, there’s something about all screens that’s damaging to their wellbeing.

“It’s interesting because you might think that it’s the lack of physical movement that’s causing this, yet our research shows that doing homework or reading – both sedentary activities – positively contribute to wellbeing, so it’s something else.

“In fact, we found that children’s wellbeing was higher when they participated in extra-curricular activities – even if they already reported being happy.

“What this shows is that we need to find ways to encourage children of all ages and backgrounds to get involved in activities that keep them away from TV, computers and mobile devices.”

The research also highlights distinct differences between children who came from low and high socio-economic backgrounds.

Students in lower socio-economic backgrounds who frequently played sport were 15 per cent more likely to be optimistic, 14 per cent more likely to be happy and satisfied with their life, and 10 per cent more likely to be able to regulate their emotions.

Conversely, children who played video games and used social media almost always had lower levels of wellbeing: up to 9 per cent less likely to be happy, up to 8 per cent to be less optimism and 11 per cent to be more likely to give up on things.

“Children who were more at risk tended to come from lower socio-economic backgrounds, which indicates a clear need for greater support in these areas,” Dr Virgara said via University of SA.

“As many of these children responded well to playing sports, education initiatives and continued funding of government programmes such as the State Government’s $100 School Sports Vouchers could be good options.

“All in all, the message is clear – gaming, watching TV, playing on computers, and scrolling through social media are not helping build or sustain positive wellbeing in children.

“It’s certainly a challenge, especially as most children have been brought up on devices. But if families can be more aware of the issues associated with screens, then perhaps we can find a better balance of screen time and other out-of-school activities.”

AIA Australia CEO Damien Mu on Tottenham’s visit to Melbourne and Ange Postecoglou impact

Before Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United’s pre-season friendly match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, football codes came together on the day to test their skills in a first-ever junior clinic.

Hosted at Collingwood Football Club’s training facility of AIA Vitality Centre, the Aussie Rules AFL team was joined by the visiting Spurs.

Across two sporting codes, a common denominator is that AIA proudly supports both and through the affiliation, combined for a once in a lifetime coaching clinic.

Tottenham and Collingwood players were in attendance, along with AIA Ambassador and former Hawthorn premiership player Shane Crawford.

Junior soccer and AFL club players were treated to a memorable day of fun and skills training, aimed at promoting AIA’s vision of communities living happier and healthier lives. This included specialised drills, authentic coaching and a Q&A session for all kids to learn and benefit from.

AIA is a long-time partner of Tottenham, while their recent front-of-shirt deal with Melbourne Victory further emphasised their support for Australian football.

A day of fun at Collingwood FC’s AIA Centre.

Speaking to Soccerscene, AIA Australia CEO Damien Mu reflected on a hugely successful day for participants.

“The AIA junior clinic was fantastic, it was all about giving an opportunity for kids to get active and participate in training with Tottenham and Collingwood coaches,” he said.

“We thought it was a rare opportunity and fantastic way to really promote active participation in sport.

“At AIA, we encourage people to live happier, longer, and better lives and being active is one of those – with other important choices such as what you eat and looking after your mental wellbeing.

“We’ve sponsored Tottenham since 2013 and the fact they’re out here with Ange taking over was an opportunity we couldn’t miss.”

“We also sponsor Collingwood and most recently Melbourne Victory, so we thought what a great way to get the three clubs together and Collingwood were fantastic in hosting at the AIA Vitality Centre and getting behind it, with all three teams giving back to the community.”

It was a momentous occasion for Victorian fans, as Ange Postecoglou has completed his first full season at the Spurs.

Mu shared what the excitement was like on the day.

“Undoubtably, having Ange had a huge impact,” he said.

“We’ve been fortunate to have Tottenham come out a few times – in Sydney and then Perth last year – it’s always a massive buzz and gives such a good lift to football.

“With Ange now there, it’s given that a super boost and the energy that’s around him, along with having two EPL teams in town, which is why just over 78,000 people went to the MCG on a weeknight.

“All of this is a great way to get kids attached to the game and have active participation post-World Cup, rather than being stuck on smart devices.”

Crawford (far right) chatting with Tottenham representatives.

Melbourne Victory, who were preparing for the A-League Men’s Grand Final against Central Coast Mariners, were backed by AIA as a Finals Series sponsor.

Mu described what he and AIA saw in Victory leading up to the deal being struck.

“Melbourne Victory have had a great season, been long-standing as one of the original clubs in the A-League and a cornerstone of the league from the start,” he said.

“It was a great opportunity that arose given our affiliation with football globally through Tottenham.

“We had ongoing conversations with Victory about how we can partner up, and it seemed like a great way to support them at a time when they were seeking that support going into the finals.

“They’re a great club – it really is about family, community and business coming together. Even Ange touched on the community feel, all the way back in his South Melbourne days.

“We definitely love the community aspect of what Victory are trying to do and how they like to get out there and promote the game as well.”

Reflecting on the community theme, Mu added what he sees in collaborating with sporting organisations.

“When we think partnerships, we want them to be purposeful,” he said.

“It’s great to be on the shirt, but it’s more about what we do with clubs in relation to health and wellbeing.

“Our sporting clubs are great because it provides genuine role models to cheer on within family and friends.

“It allows us to get really meaningful health and wellbeing content from the players and coaches that we know fans and members absolutely love, rather than a company with three letters on it telling you what we do.”

Collingwood FC’s Will Hoskin-Elliott (left) with Tottenham goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario.

From a long-term perspective, AIA are hoping to maintain their presence in Asia and Oceania.

Mu shared the overall success of the junior clinic where we can expect more to come.

“We’re really lucky with the partnership through Tottenham where there’s coaching clinics right across the markets we operate in Australia and New Zealand,” he said.

“The clinics are really important as they get out to schools and the clubs, especially at grassroots level.

“When the whole team comes into town, you get a boost, but this is something we’ve been doing for a while and part of the collaboration with Tottenham where we are proud to do these clinics in Australia and New Zealand.”

Adelaide United confirm PSV legend as Technical Director

Adelaide United confirmed that PSV legend and former Dutch international Ernest Faber will become the club’s Technical Director.

This announcement is linked to the recent strategic partnership between Adelaide United and Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven, further demonstrating the Club’s commitment to longer term football investment.

Securing someone of Faber’s elite European football prestige is a brilliant move by the Reds and will advance their already successful off-field development plan that has seen Nestory Irankunda and Joe Gauci leave for big funds.

Faber was appointed Assistant Manager of the Netherlands national team in 2011 under Bert van Marwijk and worked with the national side at the UEFA Euro 2012.

Faber became PSV’s Head of Youth Academy in 2018 and will conclude his tenure there on June 30, 2024. He will join the Reds in July, relocating to Adelaide.

Faber expressed his excitement at joining the club and the challenges that lie ahead for him.

“I am truly honoured and excited to be starting this new challenge and cannot wait to get started,” Faber said in an interview.

“When I came to visit Adelaide in January, I was very impressed with the culture of the Club.

“There are a number of really good young players in South Australia, and I am really excited to work with Marius and the entire Football Department to help elevate the Club to the standards it strives for.”

Adelaide United Chair, Ned Morris mentioned how impactful this move was going to be for the club’s future.

“Today is a monumental day for our great club and we are absolutely thrilled that Ernest has committed to Adelaide United,” Morris said in a club statement.

“Our goal is to become the most successful Club in Australia, and having Ernest’s wealth of experience on and off the field is incredibly valuable to us.

“Having Ernest within our ranks strengthens our ties with PSV Eindhoven and will give us opportunities to work with the next generation of great young prospects in their Youth System.

“We look forward to the positive influence Ernest will have in our Football Department and the organisation as a whole.”

Adelaide United recently embarked on a journey to Eindhoven to link up with the Dutch club and give players, coaches and officials the opportunity to engage with PSV Academy, renowned for nurturing some of the brightest talents in European football.

This new partnership with PSV and appointment of Ernest Faber is part of an ambitious long-term plan that promises growth, success, and a shared passion to nurture young talent and generate success on and off the field.

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