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Blog 3: The Hidden Benefits of Taking Part in Sport and Physical Activity – From My Own Experiences.

The Department of Health (2011) reports that “regular physical activity reduces risk of all causes of mortality by 30% when comparing the most active with the least active”. We are becoming more aware that sport and physical activity is good for our health and helps us to live longer. There are, however, many other benefits that we don’t tend to talk about.

I decided to write this blog because I wanted to reflect on my own experiences with sport and the benefits it has had on me personally – not just for my health! So here is my list of 5 hidden benefits of sport and physical activity:

Benefit 1: Increases Confidence

The biggest thing that sport has given me is confidence. Nowadays, I come across as an outgoing and chatty personality, but you may be surprised to know I haven’t always been like this. Growing up, I was a shy tomboy with very little self-esteem but I loved being outdoors and playing sport – usually football.

At 9 I was introduced to tennis through a charity called the Cliff Richard Tennis Foundation who came to my school for a talent ID day. Following a successful day, I received a letter home inviting me to attend free tennis lessons at my local club. Within a few weeks I was hooked playing tennis anywhere I could (including in the house).

At the age of 12 I represented my County, I quickly realised that not everyone could play tennis like I could! At school I used to hear people say ‘that’s the girl who is really good at tennis!’. This made me feel great about myself and slowly my confidence just continued to grow. At tournaments I would be meeting lots of new competitors and I became used to chatting to children I did not know. Admittedly I still suffer with low self-esteem (although you may not see it) but I think sport has really helped bring out my personality and made me feel good about myself.

Benefit 2: Made Friends Outside of School

By the age of 12 I played tennis two or three times a week at the same centre, with the same children. As a result, we all became very close, going to birthday parties and supporting each other at tournaments. The camaraderie and fun we would have in our sessions with our coach was great. Our parents also got to know one another and at times we were like one big supportive tennis family. It was great to have friends outside of school to expand my social circle and I still keep in contact with some of the players today.

Benefit 3: Amazing Opportunities

I have been given some amazing opportunities as a result of playing tennis. I went to Wimbledon at the age of 11 and got to meet Cliff Richard and see Venus Williams play (my favourite player). I went to Portugal with my tennis friends/coaches to compete at the age of 14 which helped me to broaden my horizons. At 16 I developed a passion for coaching and went on to do my level 1, 2 and 3 tennis coaching qualification.

At 21 I was accepted onto the British Tennis Volunteer Group which was a consultive body for young people, helping to develop the LTA’s products and programmes. I volunteered at the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics working in the Athletes village and Handball Arena to coordinate their training programme. Finally, and most importantly, I would not be running Toddler Tennis today if I had not been involved in sport so it is also something people can earn a living from.

Benefit 4: It Kept Me Busy

While most of my friends were going to the cinema, playing computer games and watching tv, during my early teenage years, I was busy playing tennis. At this time in my life, I would be training 4 evenings a week and away competing almost every weekend. There was no time for anything else! On the odd occasion I did miss out on fun social events and wished sometimes I wasn’t so busy but looking back on it, I wouldn’t change this for the world! It kept me out of trouble and kept me focussed on my goals.

Benefit 5: Taught Me Resilience

Resilience is defined as ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficult situations’. Playing and competing in a sport is full of ups, downs and difficult situations. Whether it was during a match – having the mental capacity to fight back and win when your down, or off court dealing with a difficult loss. Sport has enabled me to cope and recover well from failures and knocks. It also made me realise that you can learn from difficult situations– much like life!

I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for the benefits I received from playing sport. Whether it has been running a business or throwing myself into scary situations and knowing I will be okay – sport has played, and continues to play an important part in my life.