NEW Year, New You? Let me guess, you signed up to the gym and started a new diet that you may have already broken by now and it’s not even the end of January.

You want to get healthier and you’re unsure of a way to do it continuously while also having fun?

Have you thought about taking up a new sport, or going back to one you used to play?

Sport has been an important part of human life since the Ancient Greeks created the Olympic Games hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. Evidently it has endured the test of time but why is it still so popular?

Basketball
ENJOYMENT: Boys in a basketball game

Parents tend to think of it as a way their children can stay healthy and active and make new friends.

My mum encouraged me to try every sport imaginable when I was young, before I discovered my true calling – basketball.

I’ve now been playing for more than 12 years and coaching for four. Even though the phrase ball is life is a massive cliche, it still means a lot to me. There are times when the only thing that can help me deal with troubling issues is my love for the orange ball.

According to a study by Sport England, sport programmes aimed at youths at risk of criminal behaviour can enhance self-esteem and reduce reoffending. 

Dimitris Basketball
ENERGY: Dimitris shielding the ball (centre)

I’m not saying that basketball was ever that extreme for me, but when I step onto the court I forget everything about the outside world – be that relationship problems or work worries.

Basketball is my escape from the real world and that’s always the feeling I want to instil to my players.

Joining a new team can also help you meet new people and create new friendships, especially if you’ve just moved to a new country – as I have, moving to Spain just three weeks ago.

When you have a job with demanding work hours, it can be pretty tough to find time to socialise. But through sport you can kill two birds with one stone, by becoming healthier and making new friends at the same time. 

Marc Gasol
MARC GASOL: The Spanish basketball star won the World Cup with Spain and the NBA with the Toronto Raptors last year

Basketball – the second biggest sport in Spain after football – has helped me do exactly that.

The social side of sport doesn’t only help with making new friends; it can help your ‘social skills’ generally, and how you deal with ‘obstacles’ presented by opponents and referees – transferable skills that you can then use in everyday life.

Sport is also a great way of releasing tension and anger. Many studies show that regular exercise releases endorphins, enhancing mood and reducing depression. 

That doesn’t necessarily just mean sport; it could be going to the gym or for a run, although solitary activities may not take your mind off things as efficiently as sport, with its emphasis on  teamwork, competition and fun. 

If you’re going to get that ball in the net you can’t be stressing about that story you should have submitted to the editor last week!

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