Is There Any Benefit to Youth Sports Participation?

Posted by robert hopkins on Feb 08 2007 at 04:00PM PST
While it's true that statistics aren't everything, a recent study found a correlation between sports and long-term productivity among teenagers. A study conducted by Hardiness Research of Wyoming found that by a 2:1 ratio for boys and a 3:1 ratio for girls, those who participate in sports perform better in school, do not drop out, and have a better chance to get through college. A survey done by the Women's Sports Foundation found that girls who participate in sports are 80 percent less likely to have unwanted pregnancies and 92 percent less likely to get involved with drugs than those who don't participate in sports. Research has shown that students who participate in interscholastic sports are less likely to be regular and heavy smokers. Students who play at least one sport are 40 percent less likely to be regular smokers and 50 percent less likely to be heavy smokers. Regular and heavy smoking decreases substantially with an increase in the number of sports played. (Escobedo LG, Journal of the American Medical Association, 1993.) These lower smoking rates for student athletes may be related to a number of factors: Greater self-confidence gained from sports participation; additional counseling from coaching staff about smoking; reduced peer influences about smoking; perceptions about reduced sports performance because of smoking; and greater awareness about the health consequences of smoking. (Escobedo, 1993) Numerous studies also indicate that sports participation for girls directly correlates to the development of positive attributes. Girls who play sports have higher levels of self-esteem and lower levels of depression than girls who do not play sports; girls who play sports have a more positive body image and experience higher states of psychological well being than girls and women who do not play sports; and girls who play sports learn about teamwork, goal-setting, the experience of success, the pursuit of excellence in performance, how to deal with failures, and other positive behaviors - all of which are important skills for the workplace and life. (Edwards P, 1995) In fact, 80 percent of women identified as key leaders in Fortune 500 companies participated in sports during their childhood. (Linda Bunker, University of Virginia, 1988) Children who participate in organized sports and have enjoyable experiences that pave the way for active lifestyles are less likely to battle overweight problems as adults. Currently, one out of every five children in the U.S. is overweight, and excess weight in childhood and adolescence has been found to predict being overweight as an adult (American Obesity Association Fact Sheet, 1999). Also, only about one-third of elementary school students have any type of daily physical education (Ross and Pate, 1987, This article was reprinted with permission by the National Alliance For Youth Sports. More information can be obtained through their educational on-line program, which is available at


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