All sports parents dream of watching their sons or daughters accomplish incredible feats on the field of play. To some, that means catching a touchdown pass. To others it’s being named captain of the team or setting a school record. We want the best for our kids, and our daydreams are often filled with lofty expectations.

But what if your kid is not one of the stars of the team? What if he or she is average, or even below? And, shudder to think, what if your little athlete just plain sucks at sports? Never fear, sports parents! Here’s a list of reasons why your child can still benefit from an athletic career even when he or she plays from below the Mendoza Line.

1. Your Kid Will Get Better Grades

Studies show that active kids do better in school than kids who just sit around and play Call of Duty. According to a 2008 article by NBC News, researchers at Michigan State University “found that middle-school students who performed best on fitness tests—which gauged aerobic capacity, strength, endurance, flexibility and body composition—performed better academically as well.”

2. Sports Build Discipline

Young athletes live structured lives. All sports parents are aware of the rigidity of the athletic schedule. Needing to be at a certain place at a certain time fosters accountability. And when a member of the team is missing in action, the other players see the impact it has on everyone else.

3. Youth Athletes Are Happier Than Non-Athletes

An Orlando Sentinel article examined a study performed by West Virginia University, which found that “middle-school boys and girls who play sports reported feeling healthier and more satisfied with their lives.”

The results showed that sports had even greater effects on girls, saying that girls who didn’t play sports were 30 times more likely to rate their lives as fair or poor compared to those who did play sports or exercised vigorously.

4. Doing Little Things Right Can Be a Big Deal

A player doesn’t have to be a star on the field to be a valuable member of his or her team. Some athletes who lack talent can make their way simply by working harder than others. Coaches love effort, and sometimes athletes who show a real desire to get on the field can earn playing time even if their athletic skills are lacking. These players can inspire and motivate players around them.

5. The Power of Being a Part of Something

Life as a teenager isn’t easy. Pressures hit these kids from all sides—social, academic, family and friends. Playing sports gives kids a chance to find their niche and belong. It’s a place to make friends and find an identity. And this is actually an area where the reserve players can sometimes benefit more than the star athletes, because the kids with less talent often feel less pressure. They still get the benefits of being part of the team, but without the scrutiny and expectations laid on them by coaches, parents and teammates.

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