How Sport improves Mental Health and Social Inclusion: Dylan Cummings

This week’s article will be about how sport can help improve someone’s mental health as well as their social life.

Many studies show that people who exercise regularly will feel a boost in their mood, confidence, and self-esteem. This is because endorphins are being released during exercise. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain and help to reduce the perception of pain. They also trigger a feel-good feeling within the body. Participating in sports can also be good for reducing anxiety, depression, and stress whilst improving sleep patterns.

Social inclusion is the process of fitting into groups within society. Team sports play an important role in this process as it allows individuals to play the sport they love whilst being able to socialise with other people who love the sport as much as them. This helps widen their social circle, making their teammates friends for life.

People with disabilities, particularly from a young age may suffer from social exclusion. This might occur within schools because their other classmates may not understand why someone might have a disability. This may be due to their lack of disability awareness, they might be put off from talking to someone with a disability because they may be perceived as different from everyone else. Social exclusion may lead someone with a disability into thinking they don’t fit into a society which could create mental health issues and cause them to feel depressed.

Disability sport can help reverse this cycle, playing sport will give a person with a disability something to do and look forward to once or twice a week. As I stated before, endorphins will be released when playing sport; making the person feel good about themselves and what they are doing. This will improve their mental health state and overall well-being. It will also create social inclusion as they will be playing the sport alongside people with similar disabilities and situations to them which will make them feel part of a social circle.

Before I found the wheelchair basketball, I often felt I couldn’t keep up with my able-bodied peers and felt left out. This also happened at school, a lot of the time I couldn’t compete in the sports we did in PE lessons because of my disability.

When I started playing basketball, I felt rejuvenated, like I had something to look forward to twice a week because I loved playing the basketball so much. It greatly improved my mental health because I felt like I had something to work towards. It made me want to be physically fit and become the best version of myself so I could bring myself up to the standard of a good playing level which would benefit the team.

Playing basketball made me feel socially included as I felt part of the team. At the time, it was new to me to be around other people with similar disabilities. I felt so used to being the only person who was a wheelchair user and now I felt surrounded by people who had come from similar situations as me. Seeing how they persevered in basketball inspired me to do the same. It felt so good to feel fully accepted into a social circle for the first time in my life. Every time I play basketball I feel alive.

I was suggested to write an article on this topic by 17-year-old Scotland under 23 national player, Josh Manson and earlier this week I caught up with him to find out how he felt wheelchair basketball has helped improve his mental health and social life.

When asked about how sport improved his mental health he said: “Wheelchair basketball has given me the self-confidence I needed to believe in myself and my ability.” Adding that playing sport made him feel socially included with other people who have disabilities at a time where he felt like he was the only person with a disability in his area.

He also said that when he started playing “I felt like I had something to aim for as basketball allowed me to set goals for myself and get the sense of achievement through sport. I would’ve never won any young sportsperson awards if it wasn’t for getting introduced to disability sport.”

When asked about how it improved his social life he said: “Basketball has helped me meet so many important people in my life. It has helped boost my self-esteem and gain life skills with and from people of all ages, allowing me to develop friendships and to become a role model to other young athletes.”

In conclusion, I’d highly recommend wheelchair basketball to anyone suffering from mental health or social exclusion. It’s a great sport and my life would be totally different without it. It has changed my life and will do the same for you if you’re thinking about taking up the wheelchair basketball. I’d also like to thank my good friend, brother and teammate Josh Manson for suggesting this topic and adding his own input into the article.

Personally, it felt good for me to talk about mental health while relating it to my sport as I often think issues around mental health aren’t addressed correctly and are often overlooked by people who don’t understand it. I’m glad I could share my insight on how wheelchair basketball improves mental health.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoy writing them for RAW Coaching. Stay tuned for next week’s article on the success of the GB Junior Men’s programme featuring input form coaches and players from current and previous rosters as suggested by another Scotland under 23 player, Luke Pearce.

By Dylan Cummings

Dylan Cummings

19. Wheelchair Basketball player for Scotland U19s, Worcester Wolves and the University of Worcester. IWBF Writer. Pro Wrestling Fan.

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