University of South Australia researcher Richard McGrath said that for every dollar invested for a child in a circus training program, $7 are potentially saved in their future mental health costs.
The study, of which Dr McGrath was lead researcher, tracked the experiences of 55 children aged between 8 and 14 years across a six-month circus skills program.
He said participating children showed significant improvements in stress relief, self-esteem, confidence and socialisation.
“Children reported that circus training helped them feel much better about themselves, both physically and mentally,” he said.
“They felt a greater sense of freedom, confidence and happiness, far less worry and stress than when they first started the program and reported feeling brave and proud of their achievements.”
Mount Barker Grade 10 student, Alex Wiehl, 15, has learned circus skills at Southern Edge Arts for five years, and said at the age of 10 she had “no clue what I was walking into”.
“I watched one of my friends do bits and pieces, but not a lot and just wanted to give it a go,” she said.
“I progressed pretty quickly and am now in the performance groups.”
Her progression was such that Alex now helps out with the teaching.
“I deal with the little kids and we see a lot of enthusiasm there, and during the shows we see them enjoy themselves and just kind of show off to their parents, and with the bigger shows show off to the community,” she explained.
“We have one little boy who was incredibly shy and wouldn’t talk to anyone or do anything and he’s been with us for a while and loving it now.
“It can stay as a sport, or lead you into careers such as teaching or performance-based arts and all sorts of things, really.”
Alex said “three or four” kids from Mount Barker and “five or six” from Denmark were enrolled at Southern Edge Arts in Albany.
“I’d encourage anyone from Barker or Denmark to give it a shot,” she said.
“It’s just another sport that not everyone thinks of to try, and it’s rather female-dominated.
“We need boys to do some of the acts and I think it would be great for them to give it a shot.”
Alex’s mother Tammy said circus training provided an alternative to football and cricket.
“I think the best thing about circus is that it’s not a competitive sport,” she said.
“It’s really good for kids with that have self-confidence issues, because it can help them through all of that and teaches them how to act and perform, as well as their actual skill set that they’re working on.
For more information on circus programs run by Southern Edge Arts, hit https://www.southernedge.org.au.