Sport and Education
Sports and physical activity have been part of the education system for a long time and for good reasons. Teachers, parents, and educators alike agree on the purpose and positive impact that sports and physical activity have on students’ academic achievement (Taras, 2005). Studies on the physical activity provide evidence on the benefits of regular physical activity on physiological and psychological health, both of which are directly connected to better academic performance (Florida National University, 2014; Kilpatrick, Hebert, & Bartholomew, 2005; Pate, Trost, Levin, & Dowda, 2000). On the background of the benefits of sports to academic performance, sports have been part of the education system, both in high school and college. In incorporating sports and physical activity in academics, there was a belief that students’ participation in sports, apart from having tremendous physical and academic benefits, will also help students socially. Specifically, there was a view that sports and physical activity are instrumental in building students’ character, providing entertainment, in addition to creating a positive school community spirit (Pate et al., 2000). Many within the academic field still hold this view on the positive attribute of sports on high school and college students’ academic and social life. Despite the benefits that come with sports and physical activity in academic institutions, elementary and secondary schools in the US do not have regular programs for sports even as some school districts are eliminating physical activity (Coe, Pivarnik, Womack, Reeves, & Malina, 2006; Taras, 2005). However, it is noteworthy to consider that sport has different outcome to students in college and school, particularly in relation to academic performance.
Although they are both academic institutions, college and school have both similar and different attributes. The difference is not only in the formulation of the academic programs but also in the students and their relation to the teachers. College students are largely independent making choices on the courses they want to pursue. In essence, college students pursue courses and classes of their interest in relation to the careers they want to pursue after the graduation. Taking the classes mean that at one point, the student also has to do industrial attachment within the field of the career. The internships are especially important in giving the students a feel of the real world in the career of their choice. The freedom of choice also applies to physical activity. According to Kilpatrick, Hebert, and Bartholomew (2005), only about 38 percent of college students take part in the regular extreme physical activity. Further, only 20 percent participate in the moderate physical activity (Kilpatric et al., 2005). The freedom of choice means that no one pushes the student to work unless it is in relation to poor grades that could lead to suspension or inability to graduate.
Choosing the courses and classes one wants to pursue from the college, however, also means more work. College students have to finish lengthy assignments, do more research beyond the lectures in class in addition to reading widely. Further, while attending lectures, students must make and take their notes. Moreover, college students have to put in more effort in their work if they want to succeed. The idea of putting in more work is especially visible among college athletes who while excelling in sports, may not make the cut in academics (Florida National University, 2014). Although this may have a negative effect on the students’ academic performance, grade, and narrow their chances of graduation, their focus and hard work in sports increase their chances of professional recruitment after college (Florida National University, 2014).
The inclination among college students is discovery of oneself and the world around. More often, college students want to discover and learn from life, and therefore, go out of their way to learn. The idea of self and world discovery pushes the students to try out new things, make new friends, and in the process make connections helpful in academic, professional, and social life. It is the desire for self-discovery that boosts college students to fulfill themselves in activities that they have an interest in, such as sports and other physical activities (Florida National University, 2014). Self-discovery is, therefore, an important element of college students’ lives as it helps shape the kind of person one becomes in a post-college period.
High school students, on the other hand, are still under the care of their parents and teachers. This means that most high school students’ activities are under parents and teachers’ scrutiny. The guided and programmed nature of a high school student’s life is perhaps the reason of 65 percent of the students report participating in physical activity (Kilpatrick et al., 2005). Moreover, in high school, students have no choice on the subjects they learn as there is an obligation on learning all the subjects indicated by the schedule.
Further, it is perhaps easier for high school students where there are no caveats for graduation. Largely, teachers grade students according to their efforts during classes and other activities. There are therefore no thresholds for graduation. However, high school students are constantly under pressure to conform to peer-groups in addition to the need to look cool.
Although both are in academic institutions, college and high school students are vastly different. The freedom in the choice of course and class to attend that college students have is not a luxury high school students can afford. Relatively, time management is of the essence for college students who have to plan their time; on the other hand, high school students have a schedule of activities set by the school and sometimes parents, which they have to follow. In sports participation, high school students largely play in hope of a college scholarship. For college students, participation in sports is essentially a gateway to a professional career, especially in sports such as football and basketball (Florida National University, 2014).
The impact of sports on students’ life cannot be overemphasized. Participation in sports has a positive impact on the students, particularly on their health. According to Pate et al. (2000), substantial physical activity, which is the mainstay of sports, has numerous health benefits, which eventually accrue to students participating in sports. The authors further posit that rules within teams promote healthy behaviors including healthy nutrition and frowning upon the drug and substance abuse (Pate et al., 2000). In a survey done by Pate et al. (2000), participation in sports had numerous health benefits including healthy diet including fruits and vegetable as well as participation in vigorous physical activities in comparison with non-sports participants. The survey continues to share the positive attributes of sports participation stating, “…female sports participants were less likely than female nonparticipants to report cigarette smoking, using marijuana or cocaine, having sexual intercourse during their lifetime, having sexual intercourse during the past 3 months, and contemplating or attempting suicide” (Pate et al., 2000).
The benefits of students’ participation in sports go beyond a positive contribution to the health of the student to the students’ academic performance and desire to graduate from college. Gayles and Hu (2009) contend that studies into the benefits of sports participation among students in college indicate a positive association between sports and motivation for completion of the degree. Additionally, collegiate athlete students demonstrate persistence for the completion of the course as well as have better satisfaction rates for the college experience (Gayles & Hu, 2009; Frank, 2003).
Students’ participation in physical activity has a great impact on cognitive faculties. Coe et al. (2006) inform that participation in sports and physical activity among students has positive attributes towards mechanisms used in academic achievement. Students with increased physical activity, therefore, have increased arousal and reduced levels of boredom (Coe et al., 2006). Coe et al. (2006) further state that such students develop better concentration and attention span. Taras (2005) adds weight to the benefits of sports and physical activity on academic achievement stating, “…physical activity improves general circulation, increases blood flow to the brain, and raises levels of norepinephrine and endorphins—all of which may reduce stress, improve mood, induce a calming effect after exercise, and perhaps as a result improve achievement” (p. 214).
Apart from health and education, participation in sports and physical activity has positive effects on the students’ social lives. Chen, Snyder, and Magner (2010) posit that participation in sporting and physical activities has positive social benefits on students as it helps in cultivating attitudes of obedience to societal rules, even as it constrains delinquent behavior. Through sports participation, students learn to follow rules and keep away from consumption of illegal substances.
Part of the sporting rules includes promotion of fair competition. The tenet is in tandem with societal values of integrity. By cultivating the character of true sportsmanship, students live a positive social life away from substance abuse, delinquency, and obeying societal rules (Chen, Snyder, & Magner, 2010; Frank, 2003). Sports participation, therefore, goes a long way in building the character of the student in such a way that one becomes a useful and respected member of the society.
Further, participation in sports provides not only a platform for social interaction but also acts as a point for confidence building and motivation (Chen et al., 2010; Wallhead & Ntoumanis, 2004). Wallhead and Ntoumanis (2004) argue that participation in sports and physical activity help in motivating students towards achieving their goals, not only as sports personnel but also in their daily lives. The authors argue that motivation is an important element in developing positively motivated behavior in physical education, sports, and life in general (Wallhead & Ntoumanis, 2004).
Participation in sporting activities in high school and college additionally has positive attributes to academic performance. High school and college students work hard in both sports and academics, knowing that sports could provide a leeway to an athletic scholarship in college as well as open doors to a professional sporting career after college. Chen et al. (2010) state that one of the benefits of participating in sports is the fact that it offers opportunities for education and career in sports. One undeniable fact is that college education is expensive, and for students without a strong financial background but with the desire to go to college, an athletic scholarship is perhaps the only avenue they have of getting the college education. Sports, through the athletic scholarship, therefore, offer students academic opportunities helping achieve their academic dreams.
Sports, as part of the academic program, teach students skills outside the realm of academic achievement and accomplishment. Richards and Aries (1999) argue that participation is sport has correlations to growth in interpersonal skills and leadership abilities of the participants. Additionally, Richards and Aries (1999) inform that studies into sports participation have concluded that participants learn self-discipline, cooperation, teamwork, self-confidence, competitive spirit, dealing with failure and pride in accomplishment. All these are attributes important in individuals’ daily lives. Sadly, however, people may not be able to cultivate them through academic achievement, therefore underscoring the importance of sports participation as part of a wholesome academic experience.
In conclusion, sports offer a wide range of benefits to its participants, particularly in high school and college. Participation in sports has a positive correlation with health, academic achievement, social life, and development of skills for students. Moreover, participation in sports means students have a chance for higher education through athletic scholarship. The difference in college and high school students does not provide deterrence to the benefits that the participants reap from sports. Although some school districts are looking to eliminate physical activity and sports from schools, this is an ill-advised move as it will mean crashing some students’ dreams and potential in professional careers as sports personnel.
Chen, S., Snyder, S. & Magner, M. (2010). The effects of sport participation on student-Athletes’ and non-athlete students’ social life and identity. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 3, 176-193.
Coe, D., Pivarnik J.M., Womack C.J., Reeves M.J., & Malina R.M. (2006). Effects of physical education and activity levels on academic achievement in children. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 38(8), 1515-1519.
Florida National University (FNU). (2014). The link between sports and academic performance. Retrieved from http://www.fnu.edu/the-link-between-sports-and-academic-performance/
Frank, A., M. (2003). Sports and education: A reference handbook. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO Inc.
Gayles, J., G. & Hu, S. (2009). The influence of student engagement and sport participation on college outcomes among division I student athletes. Journal of Higher Education, 80(3), 315-33.
Kilpatrick, M., Hebert, E., & Bartholomew, J. (2005). College student’s motivation for physical activity: Differentiating men’s and women’s motives for sports participation and exercise. Journal of American College Health, 54(2), 87-94.
Pate, R., R., Trost, S., G., Levin, S., and Dowda M. (2000). Sports participation and health- related behavior among US youth. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 154(9), 904-911.
Richards, S. & Aries, E. (1999). The division III student-athlete: Academic performance, campus involvement, and growth. Journal of College Student Development, 40(3), 211-218.
Taras, H. (2005). Physical activity and student performance at school. Journal of School Health, 75(6), 214-218.
Wallhead, T., L. & Ntoumanis, N. (2004). Effects of a sports education intervention on students’ motivational responses in physical education. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 23, 4-18.