Over the last few weeks I have touched on some of the benefits of sports for youth. In that spirit, I’d like to discuss how sports are involved in academic achievement. All of the qualities reinforced by organized training and competition are paralleled with the qualities it takes to be successful in school. Hard work, discipline, focus, goal-setting, responsibility - these are just a few examples of characteristics we see in successful weightlifters that we also see in successful students. There is plenty of research to support this.
In a study done by Howell Wechsler, fifty students were examined to determine the effect of physical activity on academic performance. After multiple studies, over half showed improved performance and almost none had negatively affected grades. There have also been studies that show participating in school sports creates a deeper sense of commitment to adhere to rules and values. Physiologically, exercise is positively correlated with increased focus and attention span. The physical limitations of inactivity (see last weeks blog post) are also damaging psychologically, which in turn affects academic achievement. In another study, engagement in physical activity was shown to increase dedication to schools and an increase in self-esteem, both of which are variables for higher grades.
But what about the potential of sports to take away from focus on academics? This can happen as a result of a narrow-path mentality. While maximizing physical potential to pursue a successful athletic career is supported by our program, it is not our only goal for our kids. Many schools have installed academic requirements to negate the tendency of sports-centered students to spend less time focusing on their studies. A student who is seriously dedicated to their sport tends to adhere to the grade requirements to stay eligible to participate. The earlier kids establish a positive feedback loop with hard work and reward, the better, however many schools are now cutting physical education time from their curriculum due to different priorities in allocating funds. The No Child Left Behind mandate and pressure created by state-to-state standardized tests has stressed our educators. Less time spent on physical activity and more in the classroom does not necessarily result in better grades. Schools are trying to save money and make sure their students are passing the required exams at the same time, and the physical education system is paying for this. Involvement in extracurricular sports is the best way to combat these changes. Kids need a consistent model for physical and psychological development as much as they need one for education. These all work together, but not one of them should be neglected.
If there is concern by parents that spending extra time playing sports may detract from time spent studying, it probably makes more sense to be concerned with the time kids spend engaged in other activities, such as watching T.V., that are not contributing to their overall development. Sports and academics are really on the same page, and this is something we want to showcase with our athletes. At Socal we want our athletes to be extraordinary in all of their pursuits. We are firm believers that the way you do one thing is the way you do everything. With weightlifting being a particularly challenging sport, the potential for growth and character building experiences is ceaseless. The necessity for attention to detail, and PATIENT hard work every day are ingredients for our motto “pursuing excellence” not just inside the walls of our gym, but in the classroom, on the field, or wherever our athletes go.
Our focus is the bigger picture. It is to enrich the whole lives of our youth athletes, with excellence in sports not coming at the cost of any other important area of their lives. We realize that our athletes walk in our door with all kinds of other things on their plate - school, work, family, fun, relationships. Each should encourage growth in each other - physically, academically, developmentally. Rather than sports being a distraction from studying, we believe the opposite is true, and that sports can positively relate to grades.