The Value of Cocurricular Activities
Cocurricular activities may not be tested or graded, but they educate—and beneﬁt—students in ways that classroom activities cannot. BY EDWARD J. KLESSE AND JAN A. D’ONOFRIO
ocurricular pursuits are integral to the educational program and— whether or not they carry academic credit—have legitimate links to regular courses and to the purposes of middle level and high schools. They underpin the goal of teaching students to be responsible and fulﬁlled human beings with opportunities that develop character, critical thinking, social skills, and talents (NASSP 1996). Cocurricular activities also provide students with a network of peers and adults who have interests and talents similar to their own. Students who participate have the chance to excel individually, be part of a group, and gain real-life lessons about the importance of teamwork, responsibility, commitment, and hard work (Educational Research Service 1999). Participation in cocurricular activities improves an adolescent's chances of avoiding such risky behaviors as dropping out, becoming a teenage parent, engaging in delinquency, smoking, or abusing drugs or alcohol through three mechanisms, according to Zill, Nord, and Loomis (1995): • Time displacement: the widely held notion that if a young person spends a great deal of time in beneficial or harmless activities, he or she will not have time to get into mischief. • Commitment building: the argument that participation in constructive
activities, by developing skills, creating aspirations, and providing rewarding experiences, strengthens a young person's commitment to conventional institutions, such as school, and traditional career pathways. • Group pressure: the idea that participation in teams, clubs, or other group activities promotes a sense of membership or belonging. Expanding the Curriculum
Cocurricular activities are an extension of, not a diversion from, a good educational program and support the aca-
demic mission of the school. Students who participate in activity programs tend to have higher grade point averages, better attendance records, lower dropout rates and fewer discipline problems than students who don't participate (National Federation of State High School Associations [NFHS] 1999). Students who participate in cocurricular activities not only do better academically than students who do not but also develop other facets of their personalities in the process. Selfesteem, self-conﬁdence, social cooperation, and leadership skills are just a few of the cognitive factors that are affected. Cocurricular activities allow students to blend aspects of their academic learning into personal actions (Allison 1979). Cocurricular activities may be one of the reasons many students stay in school or find personal meaning for their middle level and high school years. Students who are involved in cocurricular activities are able to extend and enrich previously learned academic skills through competitions and real-world simulations. In the cocurricular setting, they may also develop and practice artistic, musical, and
climb, such activities as team sports create bonds that cut across racial lines. For example, 76 percent of all White and African-American student athletes say they became friends with someone from another racial or ethnic group while playing sports (Lapchick 1996). Teaching Young People To Serve
psychomotor talents; leadership skills; and future career and occupational skills (Haensly, Lupkowsky, and Edlind 1985/1986). Goal-directed activities develop skills in young people, and they may foster positive character traits. Both individual and group activities can teach students the importance of vigilance, hard work, attention to detail, practice, patience, and persistence in the face of setbacks. Group activities encourage cooperation and teamwork, personal sacrifice for group goals, and empathy—qualities...