As high school students head back to school this year, more than 50 percent of them will be involved in activities unavailable in most countries — sports within an education-based system.
Bursting at the seams
Despite the ever-growing number of distractions diverting teenager attention today, participation in high school sports has increased every year since 1988, according to surveys from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and its 51-member state high school associations.
The latest survey from the 2017 – 18 school year revealed an all-time record high of 7,980,886 participants in high school sports, which broke down to 3,415,306 girls and 4,565,580 boys. The last time participation dipped was between the 1987 – 88 and 1988 – 89 school years, with a decline of about 19,000 participants.
High school sports — and other activity programs such as speech, debate, and music — support the academic mission of schools. As illustrated in studies like the ”Case for High School Activities” performed by the NFHS, students who participate in sports and other activities have higher grade point averages, better attendance records, and lower dropout rates.
Students in sports and other activity programs report development in discipline, self-confidence, and ability to hande difficult situations. These programs provide lessons in teamwork and sportsmanship that aren’t as readily available in the classroom.
But more importantly
However, surveys have indicated that the number one reason high school students participate in sports is to have fun. In fact, one survey indicated that boys ranked “winning” number eight among the reasons they participate in high school sports.
Many high school students agree the primary advantage of playing a sport or participating in an after-school activity is the opportunity to meet new people and develop meaningful friendships. An online chat is no substitute for working toward a common goal face-to-face, side-by-side for weeks on end with teammates.
High school sports are also instrumental in helping teenagers establish nutritional and exercise habits that will carry them throughout life. However, perhaps the greatest long-term benefit of sports participation in high school is that is fosters success later in life. More so than grades in high school or college, or high SAT or ACT scores, surveys have indicated that participation in high school sports is a better predictor of success in both a career and as a contributing member of society.
Bruce Howard, Director of Publications and Communications, National Federation of State High School Associations, [email protected]