Kids, Mental Health, and Fitness

As our little ones grow and develop, we want them to understand that they are loved and they belong.  We expect them to learn, throughout their childhood, to control and express their emotions productively.  These learned psychological behaviors are later used to become well-rounded, mature adults.  However, emotions are sometimes difficult to control, especially when working with others. 

Have you considered what physical activity can do for a child’s mental health?  Sports participation can develop stress management techniques through active participation, prevention, mediation, meditation, and restoration.  Any type of physical activity can promote reduced depression, anxiety, and anger.  Peer relations and teamwork efforts create a positive affect and balanced emotions by teaching children to counteract negative feelings through positive play. 

We are responsible for teaching children to balance their mental health positively.  Oftentimes this is done through the bonds of friendships and team building activities.  Children that are involved in sports can maintain a healthy self-esteem and emotional balance while building character.  These are developed as they learn, compete, win, and lose as a team within sports and fitness activities. 

Additionally, girls have to deal with the issues of gender equity. Should girls play sports? Can girls play sports? Those are questions that have long been answered. However, girls need opportunities to participate. The emotional support that young girls receive from peers and positive role models while involved in physical fitness activities can lead to a lifetime of successes.

The city of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks has a continuous commitment to girls in sports with their countywide Girls Play Los Angeles program.  The GPLA program is a gender equity initiative that provides affordable recreational and physical opportunities with a focus on families, youth development and building healthy communities.  The program is available at 100 facilities (many in South Central areas) and provides programs such as: soccer, flag football, volleyball, basketball, cheer, ballet, yoga, kickboxing, and more for only $10 for girls, ages 6 to 15 years old. 

GPLA‘s overall gender equity goals are to encourage the participation of girls in sports and recreation programs by: providing opportunities for recreation, addressing under-representation in sports programs where girls are not adequately represented, improving the representation of females assigned to the administration of sports and recreation programs, improving the representation of females in positions of leadership, increasing the number of female coaches, referees, instructors, mentors and other role models, and to ensuring that the department is equitable in its distribution of resources for all youth.

Backed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, Girls Play Los Angeles is on the move by providing these various services and educating community leaders. The Department of Recreation and Parks Director of Gender Equity Affairs, Francisca Castillo, has been making tremendous strides for the GPLA program by engaging in seminars, conferences, and workshops across the country. For more information and a full list of 100 participating facilities, visit the website here or you can find them on Twitter and Instagram.

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