Sports in High School Can Be More Than Just An Extracurricular Activity

A note to high school students who are not athletes, and aren’t too fond of all the attention they get: you now have one more reason to be bitter. Those dumb jocks? They might get the job you want someday because they’re jocks, according to a study recently posted by the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies.

The researchers — Kniffin, Cornell marketing professor Brian Wansink  and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville assistant professor of psychology Mitsuru Shmizu – uses two tests to develop their conclusion.

One was a survey of 66 adults — 41 woman and 25 men, one-third of whom were high school athletes — asking them what employee, out of four categories, they believed would be most likely to have “self-confidence, leadership, time-management skills, volunteerism, charitable behavior and self-respect.” Overall, the highest-scoring adults across all categories were those identified as being former varsity basketball players, and former varsity cross country runners. Bringing up the rear were those who played trombone in the high school band, or worked on the school’s yearbook.

Then, the researchers analyzed data previously collected from more than 900 World War II veterans and found that the former high school athletes “disproportionately” scored higher on leadership, self-respect and self-confidence, engaged in greater volunteerism and charitable behavior (the only categories in the 66-adult survey where athletes fell short), and were much more likely to have held upper management positions in the workplace.

“While more systematic attention on the individual and collective benefits of participation in youth sports is necessary, the findings that we present in this article build upon prior research and suggest the notion that sports can serve important and positive developmental functions,” the researchers wrote in their study. Proponents of youth sports have argued this point for a long time; now, presumably, they have science to back them up.

So might anyone arguing against cuts to youth or school sports programs, or policies such as pay-to-play that could restrict access to them. The researchers write: “In this context, regular policy debates about the fiscal costs and rewards of extracurricular programs would benefit from research that explores the long-term consequences that are created by the extension – or elimination – of student opportunities.”

However, like any study, there are self-stated limitations, so the cast of the spring musical shouldn’t give up hope yet for their career prospects. For one thing, interviewers have told me that I got in the door in part because my resume noted I had performed improvisational and stand-up comedy. (Just like if I were a benchwarmer for the Tinytown Tigers, my resume did not have to reflect if I were any good at them — thankfully.)

For another, one thing the researchers want to find out is if there is a big difference between athletes today, and those of previous generations that weren’t put on a year-round travel team for one single sport at an early age in desperate hope of a scholarship of a pro career. “The lure of potential fortune that is now available to top-performing athletes – from across the world – is an example of the potential motivations for contemporary student-athletes that did not exist decades ago. Consequently, it is plausible that if the motivation for joining sports teams tends to be more extrinsically oriented among today’s student-athletes, then the patterns that we report might no longer be found.”

This article was originally published on Forbes