Effects of Interscholastic Sports on Academic Achievement

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Function of Interscholastic Sports and Their Effect on
Participant's Academic Achievement.

Function of Interscholastic Sports and Their Effect
On Academic Achievement
While the first account of humans engaged in learning may well be the story of Adam and Eve, the origins of team sports are virtually unknown. Perhaps, team sport pre-dates the origins of the Olympic Games in ancient Greece. The arguments among educators, however, concerning the relevance of team sports to academic achievement may be equally as ancient. In Plato's foundational document of western philosophy, Republic, sport serves the educational objectives of personal virtue and intellectual achievement. The philosopher posits the idea that athletics "cultivates the qualities necessary to endure the long and arduous climb toward knowledge that is philosophy."(Reid, 2007, p. 167) But still today, it is common to hear faculty discussions degrading the value of athletics from the college level down to junior high school. Many believe athletics represent the worst aspects of academia. Yet the tradition of scholastic team sports has survived. This survivorship suggests a symbiosis between athletics and academics very different from the adversarial relation common in faculty discussions. (McCormick & Tinsley, 1987, p. 1103) Indeed, it would be odd within a cultural context characterized by competitiveness, to imagine an educational system which denies the relevance of athletic competition. (Reid, 2007) In the educator's attempt to determine the appropriate relationship between athletics and academics, the key factor appears to be how the individual athlete balances the demands of participating in interscholastic sports with academic responsibilities. (Byrd & Ross, 1991) Further to be determined is the effect of team sport participation on the academic achievement of the interscholastic athlete?

Properly defined, the term ‘team sport' is differentiated from other coordinated, goal oriented physical activities. Wesch, Law, & Hall (2006) refer to team sports as those in which athletes must perform their actions to coordinate with the task actions of teammates (e.g. basketball). Further included here would be the designation of scholastic sports, those which are supported, funded, or sanctioned by independent schools or schools systems ranging from elementary to high schools. That list includes, but is not limited to, basketball, football, baseball, softball, volleyball, soccer, track and field, swimming, golf, and wrestling. Athletic participants have been described in studies (Byrd and Ross, 1991.) as students who were listed on a team's eligible roster for a particular sport. Further, team sport participants are considered interactive athletes in that substantial physical interaction occurs with teammates and/or the opposition. (Wesch et al. p. 222)

Estimates of total participation vary. Harrison and Narayan (2003) cited some 60% of adolescents participate in team sports. Others put the number closer to two thirds of the total student population. In general, more boys than girls are involved. (Miller, Melnick, Barnes, Farrell, & Sabo, 2005) In hard numbers, researchers (Goldberg & Chandler, 1992; Marsh & Kleitman, 2003) report 1991 statistics of some 30 million U.S. high school students engaged in school athletics. Regardless of the estimator, athletic participation in team sports is still the single most popular school-sponsored extracurricular activity, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender. (Miller, et al.2005) The North Carolina High School Athletic Association reports on its Web site (2007) numbers which show more than 166,000 high school students, both male and female, participating in 16 identified scholastic sports. Numbers for middle school, junior high, and elementary school teams are not available....
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