High School-based competitive programmes can be very beneficial to young people. It is much fun seeing the ‘high fives’, team spirit, passion and zeal to shine, amongst other things. Many schools in Nigeria today do not participate in programmes like this. The reason is simple – such programmes barely exist anymore.
The most extensive research has come in a report called “Relationships Between Youth Sport Participation and Selected Health Risk Behaviours from 1999 to 2007” published in the Journal of School Health. This report analyzes many different factors, including race, age, and gender, and behaviours, including eating habits, sexual activity, and drug risks. The report found that many groups experienced overall benefits, with the exception of some subgroups. Overall, the study found that advantages of sports include:
- Weight control
- Problem-solving skills
- Social competence
- Academic achievement
And sports can lead to reduced rates of:
- Juvenile arrests
- Teen pregnancies
In addition to these social and emotional benefits, sports can also bring about intangible benefits to the school and community as a whole. “Sports also create important opportunities for students to contribute to the school community, which may cultivate an increased commitment to, or identification with, school and school values.” (Taliaferro, 2010)
The clearest benefits of school-based sports programs can be seen in the overall physical health of teenagers. Over the past 20 years, many studies have looked at the correlation between the rising rates of obesity and the declining funding for physical activity, whether in a gym class or after-school sports, in high schools. Young people generally get less physical activity the older they get, but if they stay involved in sports programs, they’re more likely to reap the physical benefits they otherwise would not receive. This certainly helps alleviate one of the factors that can lead to obesity.
Teen girls tend to see the greater social benefits of competing in team sports. The physical activity combined with the camaraderie and purpose lead to a winning combination for girls. “Girls who compete in sports get better grades, graduate at higher rates and have more confidence. The vast majority avoid unplanned pregnancies, drugs, obesity, depression and suicide.” (Anderson, 2012).
The social benefits can also lead to academic benefits. Physical activity is shown to lead to better academic performance, and when your team is performing better, on the court and in the classroom, it adds an incentive for the individual players to do better. Participating on a team or as an individual can also help young people improve problem-solving skills, which translate to better academic performance.
The Benefits go on and on…
The Bigger Picture
How can schools best use this information? With budget cuts across the board in many school districts, administrators must make decisions that will benefit the short-term and long-term well-being of their students. If the school thinks they have to trade physical education or sports in order to get better test scores, they may be heading down the wrong path. As we’ve seen throughout this article, “Physical activity can be added to the school curriculum without academic consequences and also can offer physical, emotional, and social benefits.” (Story, 2009) Sports programs are good for the individual and the whole.
Anderson, K. (2012, May 7). The Power of Play. Sports Illustrated, pp. 44-63.
Story, M. N. (2009). Schools and Obesity Prevention: Creating School Environments and Policies to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity. Milbank Quarterly, 71-100.
Taliaferro, L. A. (2010). Relationships Between Youth Sport Participation and Selected Health Risk Behaviors From 1999 to 2007.Journal of School Health, 399-410.
Valois, R. Z. (2004). Physical Activity Behaviors and Perceived Life Satisfaction Among Public High School Adolescents. Journal of School Health, 59-65.