The effects of participating in school sports on academics

Published 22 Feb 2017

A student’s involvement in extra-curricular activities such as athletics sports has long been subjected to an argument. This is because of the reported effects of participating in sports activities in school in the student’s academic performance or educational process. Its critics noted that sports activities consume the students’ energy and time, disrupting their study habits and sacrificing their academics as a result. On the other hand, supporters of sport activities defend that involvement in sports promotes not only the physical aspect but also the over-all personalities and academic achievement of the students. This argument shows that athletics participation in school weighs more on its positive than its negative effects as far as the students’ academic performance. Nevertheless, whether athletics participation advantageously or disadvantageously affects academics is a matter of choice for the student. Those who participate in school sports have justified and proven their ability to excel in their field. Therefore, students who prefer to engage in school sports such as athletics have all the right to pursue this as long as his or her academic performance is not sacrificed.

Athletics Participation Improved Students’ Academic Performance

Numerous studies have shown that the involvement in school sports particularly the athletics actually improved the academic performances of students in their respective schools. The one-year and four-year researches were conducted by the American Sports Institute (ASI) through the program PASS or Promoting Achievement in School through Sports which ASI created. The program involves a “daily, year-long, credit-bearing physical education elective” for student athletes who did not perform and maximize their potential in academics” (“Promoting Achievement in School through Sports” 2). The PASS program were implemented in McAteer High School from1990 to 1991 that involved a total of 18 students and at several California high schools from 1991 to 1995 that involved all PASS students that were grouped according to their respective “genders, grade levels and ethnicities” (“Promoting Achievement in School through Sports” 2). The studies were based on the rationale of giving meaning to the important daily challenges of school subjects that are coupled with their athletics participations. Using the theory that the same principles and skills required in sports in order to succeed is the same as those required to succeed in academics, ASI’s president at that time, Joel Kirsch, taught the PASS students the “eight Fundamentals of Athletic Mastery (FAMs): concentration, balance, relaxation, power, rhythm, flexibility, attitude, and instinct” (“Promoting Achievement in School through Sports” 2). Upon the recommendation of a teacher, counselor, or the athletic director, students were admitted into the program. During the duration of the program, the participants’ results were analyzed considering the following variables: sex, ethnic group, number, and type of sports. ASI also identified a control group with the same characteristics with respect to the said variables. Then, the grades of the PASS students and control group were gathered, compared, and analyzed.

The results of the research affirm that in both the initial and the four-year studies, students’ athletics participation resulted in positive effects on their academic performances. The two studies also corroborated the notion of PASS that the need to improve the school performance of physically-oriented students necessitates increasing the emphasis on their corresponding field of studies or their respective subjects in school as well as more encouragement on their practice of athletics (“Promoting Achievement in School through Sports” 1 & 9-10). Although confirming that students have other reasons in coming to school besides learning, the studies were able to discover that encouraging students in their participation in sports resulted in increasing their awareness of the need to make good of their studies. The ultimate purpose of the program, which is to make the students value more their education by allowing them to excel in athletics, was met (“Promoting Achievement in School through Sports” 2).

Another study made by Fleenor supported the above positive effect of participating in sports in the academic performance of student-athletes. The research involved “twenty male and twenty female students” in the fourth to eleventh grade “at a rural, isolated and low-income high school” (Fleenor 21). They were divided into control and experimental group, with the former not involved in sports, while the latter participated in school sports such as “baseball, basketball, cheerleader, football, golf, softball, or tennis” (Fleenor 22). Both groups were each composed of ten male and 10 female students (Fleenor 22).

The “California Tests of Basic Skills” or CTBS test percentiles of all the participants, which correspond to their academic standing, were identified. The scores of the students in the non-athlete group and in the athlete group were compared. Fleenor discussed the results of her research and disclosed that athletic programs have no negative effect to students from fourth to eleventh graders. The said study also reported that athletic programs positively impacted all the subjects in the same manner. This is because their studies were not hampered as their involvement in sports did not decrease their academic grades (Fleenor 48-50).

Din, on the other hand, presented another perspective and said that the consistent benefits of involvement in school sports are affected when the student is occupied with a lot of sports-related extracurricular activities. Din found various studies which show that participation in several school sports tends to decrease its positive effects to the studies of the students (Din 1-4).

Despite this scenario, Din nonetheless conducted a study involving 225 student-athletes from five high schools in four different rural districts (Din 5). The participants were involved in a variety of sports such as basketball, volleyball, football, baseball, track, and cheerleading. To determine whether high involvement in sports decreases the academic achievement of the selected student-athletes, their grades before and after the sport season period were collected and compared. Result of the study indicated that the students’ participations in school sports do not negatively impact their studies. This is because there are no important differences between their previous and post-season grades. This implies that the students were consistent with their school performances (Din 9).


Participation in school sports such as athletics has several advantages. Its positive effects to students’ performance in school are determined from its manifestation of improved physical abilities that in effect cause an over-all improvement of the student. Its advocates stressed that students’ good standing in school or academic excellence is achieved when the physical attributes of the students, caused by his or her active involvement in sports-related extracurricular activities such as athletics, are at its peak. This is because of the cause and effect view that being physically fit actually means a sound and an effective mind. The above studies proved that students’ participation in sports also drives them more to be good or even excel at their respective studies. This is for the reason that not only they become physically fit when engaged in athletics but it also maintained their good intellectual standings.

Works Cited

  • Din, Feng. S. “Sport Activities Versus Academic Achievement For Rural High School Students.” National Forum of Applied Educational Research Journal 19, 3E (2005-2006): 2.
  • Fleenor, Paula. “A Study To Determine the Effects of School Athletic Programs on the CTBS Percentiles of Students.” 1997. Salem-Teikyo University. 23 April 2008. Accession Number ED 423255.“Promoting Achievement in School through Sports.” 1991. American Sports Institute. 23 April 2008. Accession Number ED 351330.
  • “Promoting Achievement in School through Sports.” 1996. American Sports Institute. 23 April 2008. Accession Number ED 401241.
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