The proven benefits of participating in competitive sports

Competitive sports lead students to a brighter and more successful future.

Being an athlete and playing more than one sport can be difficult. You have to divide your time equally among all sports, find time to attend all practices and games and consider the workload that comes with being a full-time student. When I tell people I play more than one sport, they think I’m biting off more than I can chew. But if they understood the benefits to athletes now and in the future, they might think differently. 

There are multiple benefits when it comes to playing on a sports team. Teens who play on teams not only improve their academic performance, but also improve their self-esteem, confidence, and mental health. The social aspect is also beneficial to those who participate in competitive sports. Through participating in sports, kids learn leadership skills, communication skills and they interact with various types of people. And of course, there is the physical benefit of it as well. Kids stay healthy while playing a sport that keeps them active. 

A study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine measured how much daily exercise was required to see a result in academic improvement. They found that the “increase in academic performance started after every 17 minutes for boys and 12 minutes for girls.” Most teenagers don’t get enough physical activity on a daily basis, so the authors of the study wanted to know what would happen if teenagers got their daily exercise in. They claim that “every 15 minutes of exercise improved performance by an average of about a 1/4 of a grade. It was possible that teens who carried out 60 minutes of exercise every day could improve their academic performance by a full grade – for example, from a C to a B, or a B to an A.”   

Sara Phillips, a student-athlete from Burnaby, British Columbia feels that playing on a soccer team has improved her ability to communicate and has given her plenty of opportunities to step up and be a leader. She also feels that it has helped her learn and become more open. Competitive sports, she says, “has given me the opportunity to meet and learn about new people and their perspective on life.”

Another Burnaby student who spoke to 8forty for this article, has been involved in martial arts for over six years. Without her training, she says she wouldn’t have become a strong, talented and more confident person. “Taekwondo has built my character and deepened my morals,” she told me. “I am a better and more self-aware person then I was without my training. I am not only more talented but I believe I am a better person because of it.” 

Through competitive sports, you, gain a better sense of work ethic, coordination and cooperation with others. A 2009 study by Ernst and Young surveyed leading business executives and reported that “female job candidates that played sports prior to entering the job market were believed to have strong work ethics, determination, and [be] team-oriented.” Another survey showed that 95% of Vice Presidents of Fortune 500 companies played sports in high school.   

Meera, age 16, said that the concentration skills she learns in competitive sports are transferable. “When I’m playing,” she told 8forty,  “I am able to stay focused and block out distractions which can help me in school, when doing homework and in a work space.”

It may seem counter-intuitive, but it seems spending time playing competitive sports actually help school work rather than hinder it.

Image credit: SDPBS Sports

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