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Jesse Palmer on the importance on youth sports and what's preventing some from participating

In our School Matters series, we are taking a deeper look at mental and physical health issues in schools.

Only about 21 percent of students between the ages of six and 19 meet recommended guidelines for physical activity, and 37 percent play a team sport regularly, according to the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance, a non-profit organization. That's despite studies showing the social, mental and physical benefits of athletics.

Jesse Palmer, an NFL quarterback for five seasons and the national spokesman for Good Sports, an organization that encourages and helps kids to get involved in athletics, said sports helped him beyond developing life skills and emotional well-being.

"When I was getting physical activity, I was able to focus more in the classroom," Palmer said Wednesday on "CBS This Morning." "I believe I got better grades as a young kid because I was more active, because I was playing sports."

Whether it's team or individual sports, he said it's important for students to play as many as they can.

"We talked about team sports and togetherness, teamwork, but I think individual sports teach you about self-reliance, self-motivation, how you can handle the spotlight," Palmer said.

But he pointed to a socioeconomic divide that prevents students from participating in organized sports, and it's only getting wider. According to the National Council on Youth Sports, parents spend an average of $671 a year on sports participation. Organizations like Good Sports try to bridge that gap by helping nearly seven million kids and providing $43 million worth of equipment.

With concerns of sports injuries among parents, Palmer pointed to a variety of factors that could help mitigate the risks. "The quality of equipment and also the quality of coaching I think goes a long, long way in protecting our kids," he said.

Some may recognize Palmer from Season 5 of "The Bachelor." "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King noted he wasn't wearing a wedding ring and asked, "Does this mean you're available?" 

"I have met someone who's way out of my league, who I'm very, very in love with. Not married yet. I'm just fooling her every day," Palmer said with a laugh, revealing her name is Emily.

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