A recent consensus report has drawn a link between academic performance and athletic participation, yet schools across the country are cutting their athletic budgets. To justify costs, many of our district administrator partners ask us to uncover the links between academic success and athletic participation. Here are three key benefits we found in our research:
1. Human Capital Benefits
Participation in athletic programs allows students to develop important skills and discipline that help students cultivate “human capital” abilities including:
- Regular schedules
- Supervision and guidance
- Clear feedback
- Activities that require sustained attention
- Opportunities for meaningful and autonomous participation
Participation in athletic has an immediate academic impact too: it’s correlated with improved homework completion and reduced absenteeism.
2. Social Capital Benefits
Research shows that because athletic programs give students the opportunity to pursue interest outside of a classroom, they students to develop socially, explore their identities and form bonds within the community. This enhanced sense of community with coaches, peers, and the school as a whole can actually extend beyond the athletes themselves. The community that grows around a school’s athletic program can experience positive social benefits in the form of higher overall academic improvement for the student body.
3. Physiological Benefits
Research shows that physical activity is positively correlated with academic performance, especially with memory, concentration, and mood. Scientists believe that aerobic activity supports neurological growth and stimulates neuron growth in areas of the brain that handle learning and memory. Other physiological changes triggered by athletic participation can help with improved attention, enhanced coping, reduced sensations of cravings and pain, and improved information processes, all of which directly contribute to better performance in the classroom.
Athletics is just one driver of improved academic performance – our research found that involvement in the Arts also has significant positive benefits as well. Our report, The Impact of Arts and Athletics Participation on Student Success, delves much deeper into the impact of both of these programs on student performance.
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