Do athletics really make that big of a difference in the lives of student-athletes?
At first thought, some might say yes because it keeps children active and in shape while others might say no because it fosters an idea of competition which can lead to unhealthy rivalries. Regardless of your position regarding athletics, there have been a number of studies that have placed a quantitative value on the benefits of sports.
In their article “Consequences of Sport Participation in High School,” which was published in the 2003 Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, Herbert Marsh and Sabina Kleitman showed that students who participated in athletics excelled in 20 out of 21 situations including homework, educational aspirations, self esteem, college enrollment and occupational aspirations to name a few.
Marsh and Kleitman conducted another study entitled, “School Athletic Participation: Mostly Gain with Little Pain” where they focused on athletes and non-athletes in Minnesota and North Carolina high schools. Students who participated in athletics had higher grade point averages (GPAs). Student-athletes in Minnesota had an average GPA of 2.84 while their counterparts’ GPA was 2.68. Those in North Carolina who participated in athletics had a GPA of 2.98 while their counterparts had a 2.17 GPA.
According to an article by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, adults aged 18-25 who were high school student-athletes are more likely to be involved in their community through volunteering and voting than their counterparts who did not participate in athletics. The study builds to a conclusion that high school athletics is beneficial to its participants both in the short term and long term.
The Journal of Adolescent Research supported the previous study by finding the same results after monitoring student-athletes from eighth through twelfth grade and their adult civic engagement behavior through their mid-twenties.
Regardless of your stance on high school athletics, there is no arguing with the findings from these studies and the countless of others that repeatedly find incredible benefits to participation. There are a variety of angles that one can look at the benefits from high school students participating in athletics: health, academic, mental and personal. What these students learn in their athletic programs through their four years of high school will catapult them ahead of many of their peers that do not participate. High school student-athletes are doing so much more than rigorous physical training to prepare for their next competitions; they are preparing to succeed in life and surpass many others.
At the LHSAA, we are proud to help this generation prepare for its bright tomorrow.
Kenny Henderson in executive director of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA).