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Using sports to build physical, emotional, and mental health support systems.

How competition and teamwork provide more than just exercise.

Photo of Joe Silva
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I scored the winning goal of the championship game at a soccer tournament when I was like, seven. My friends jumped on me and the sidelines erupted. I can play that moment in my head from start to finish today, and it was over 20 years ago.  

I went on to play soccer in high school and in college. I always stayed fit and never really thought about needing to get in shape. "Mind over matter" I would tell myself, nervously, the day before collegiate soccer pre-season. Somehow I'd always get in shape and excel.

But during my final season as a college athlete, I suffered a third degree ankle sprain, and things changed forever. I noticed my metabolism was slower than a lot of my peers, and that it took me longer to lose weight and get my cardiovascular fitness to an elite level. This effected my mental health too. I was feeling stuck, in a cast not able to move - but also ashamed that my body was failing me. My relationships were strained, because I would isolate myself, away from my teammates and aloof from my friends. It was a downward spiral that was not easy to bounce back from. Not until I took the air cast off and was able to start training again...

Staying fit is easy when you are young, still growing and aren't forcing yourself to exercise. You're distracted; simply playing. But when you get older, you tend to stop playing and begin focusing on other things that take you away from the wonderful escape that sports provide.

When you're on the pitch, there's nothing to worry about except working together with your teammates to succeed. While you compete, you burn calories, release stress and build relationships. Sports are a very effective way to build internal and external support systems that lead to a healthier life.

There are programs that utilize these concepts to support homeless communities in the US http://streetsoccerusa.org/help-usa/#!/about/ and around the world https://www.homelessworldcup.org

Moving forward I wonder how can we combine technology with the power of sports to inspire people to live healthier lives?

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Photo of Ahmed Rub

For me the most challenging part is to exercise when I feel down, the first 5 mins are the toughest, the conversation that I have with myself is just painful, thats why I truly believe exercise is not just about moving your body its about mental toughness, the stronger your mentally is the more likely you overcome the blue feelings and actually go to train !

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