How High School Sports Benefit Both Students and Schools

By Jay Mathews
Published 09/18/2011

Education writers rarely examine high school sports, but something is happening there that might help pull our schools out of the doldrums.

In the last school year, a new national survey found that 7.7 million boys and girls took part in high school sports. This is 55.5 percent of all students, according to the report from the National Federation of State High School Associations, and the 22nd straight year that participation had increased.

Despite two major recessions and numerous threats to cut athletic budgets to save academics, high schools have found ways to not only keep sports alive but increase the number of students playing. We have data indicating sports and other extracurricular activities do better than academic classes in teaching leadership, teamwork, time management and other skills crucial for success in the workplace.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has published a list of what it calls life and career skills, including flexibility and adaptability, productivity and accountability, leadership and responsibility. Many teens find the most congenial way to acquire such competencies is after-school activities.

A 2008 paper by Christy Lleras in the journal Social Science Research said students who participated in sports and other activities in high school earned more 10 years later, even when compared to those with similar test scores. A 2005 paper by Peter Kuhn and Catherine Weinberger in the Journal of Labor Economics found similar results for men who occupied leadership positions in high school. They cited evidence that leadership is not just a natural talent but can be learned by participating in extracurricular activities.

Read rest of the story here.

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