How sport influences our creativity

sport-creativitySport is undoubtedly one of the more fundamental aspects of human life.  Throughout human history we have played sports in one shape or form, whether it was the gladiatorial battles in Roman times, the Olympic races for the Greeks all the way through to modern times.

Indeed, in most industrial nations, sports are an almost sacred activity, with its star performers placed on a lofty pedestal.

As an avid follower (and participant) in sports myself, I’m well aware of the numerous benefits of sport, providing superb lessons in success (and failure), team work, conscientious preparation, making sacrifices and underlining the importance of practice.

It isn’t all positive news however.  A study, published in the Creativity Research Journal, suggests that organized sport is harming the creativity of our young people.

You’ll note that I mentioned organized sport, for the authors were directly comparing informal kickabouts with more structured competition.

Participants were asked to recollect how they usually spent their leisure time during their school years.  This could include creating art, playing video games, playing sports or any number of other activities.

The participants were then asked to complete the Abbreviated Torrance Test for Adults, which is a widely used creativity test.

The aim was to try and see if there was any link between the way we spend our leisure time as children and how creative we are as adults.

Now, I should say that I’m a wee bit skeptical about the findings, but they did nevertheless suggest that time spent playing informal sports was great for subsequent creativity.  The reverse was the case for organized sport however.

Was this due to the sport however, or were creative children more drawn to impromptu sport than their less creative peers?

That much isn’t clear.  The authors suggest that the unsupervised and unstructured nature of informal sports is a better breeding ground for creativity by providing children with the space to create their own rules, solve their own problems and resolve their own conflicts.

They contend that organized sports are more akin to the kind of hierarchy we create in our workplaces, and skills such as replication, obedience and respect for authority are more treasured.

Is that enough to suggest formal sport is bad news?  I would be careful about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  Just as impromptu sport can provide many benefits, so too can organized sports.  The key therefore would appear to be striking a balance between the two.

Indeed, the study found that the most creative adults were those who spent equal time engaged in both formal and informal sports.


11 thoughts on “How sport influences our creativity

  1. I get the point and all, but I reckon even organised sport offers more benefits than negatives. I guess what I'm trying to say is any sport has to be better than sitting on your arse doing nothing all day.

  2. Sports and physical activity enhances the creativity skill. Parents should encouraging their children to participate in sports activities. As it is very important for the well-being of the children.

  3. Very interesting article and some very valid comments. I'm an Irishman and grew up on tough sports like Hurling and Gaelic football. They're both not just physically demanding but fast paced and require a lot of skill along with quick reaction times. You have to think on your feet and if you want to be better than the rest, you need an element of creativity. I think this can be the same for many sports. I've actually just started a blog on sport, mentioning some of my favourite Irish sports along with other sports related articles if anyone wants to check it out



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