Preadolescents Who Participate In Coached Extracurricular Activities Less Likely To Smoke, Drink


Preadolescents who participate in coached extracurricular activities are less likely to smoke or drink, according to a recent study.

Researchers from Dartmouth College found that children aged of 10 to 14 who participate in a coached team sport a few times a week or more are less likely to try smoking.

"How children spend their time matters," lead author Anna M. Adachi-Mejia said in a statement. "In a nationally representative sample we found that tweens who participate in sports with a coach were less likely to try smoking. Parents and guardians may think that tweens need less adult supervision when they are not in school. However, our research suggests that certain coached extracurricular activities can help prevent tween smoking and drinking."

For the study, researchers conducted a telephone survey of more than 6,500 students in the United States in 2003 to determine if the influence of any kind of sport, versus sports where a coach is present, would be associated with risk of smoking and drinking.

They found that team sport participation with a coach was the only extracurricular activity associated with lower risk of trying smoking compared to none or minimal participation. Participating in other clubs was the only extracurricular activity associated with lower risk of trying drinking compared to none or minimal participation.

The researcher's analyses controlled for over twenty measures of characteristics and behaviors known to be associated with health risks.

Other studies examining teen extracurricular activity have focused on academic outcomes and adolescent development, or have focused on alcohol and marijuana use more than tobacco when examining health risk behaviors.

"Unlike those studies, we examined a younger age group, and we focused on the relationship between extracurricular activity and health risk behaviors," Adachi-Mejia said. "Rather than asking about sports participation in the context of activity only, we framed our questions to ask about team sports participation with a coach and participation in other sports without a coach-none of the other studies have asked specifically about coaching."

Adachi-Mejia said the study offers yet another reason to be thinking about what kinds of team sports offerings are available for youth.

The findings were recently published in Academic Pediatrics.

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