Participation in Sports Programs Can Transfer to Other Important Life Skills


To what extent does participation in competitive sports help prepare athletes for life? Several studies conducted over the years have shown that there are important skills developed through sports that can carry over to other aspects of life in positive ways.

For example, several studies have shown that, in general, varsity athletes have higher grade point averages and higher educational aspirations than those who do not participate on such teams. This positive relationship between sports achievement and academic performance was shown to most likely occur when such participation has an impact on important relationships in an athlete’s life. More specifically, participation in sports often leads parents, coaches, friends, and teachers to take participants more seriously as students, resulting in more academic support and encouragement, leading to positive academic performance.

Studies have also shown that participation in sports can have a positive impact on a child’s self-esteem. A 2014 study demonstrated that a relationship exists between sport participation self-esteem and perceived sport competence (Wagnsson). This study showed that children who participated in an organized sport demonstrated increased self-esteem over time, and this relationship was mediated by perceived sport competence. In other words, children exhibited increased self-esteem when they displayed a higher level of sport competence. The takeaway from this study is that children who receive strong instructional feedback and regular practice time in order to improve sports performance typically see an increase in their overall self-esteem. A similar study from 1997 showed a positive correlation between sport participation and a decrease in deviant behavior (Coakley). This study demonstrated that when sports are played with a clearly expressed emphasis on a philosophy of nonviolence, respect for self and others, the importance of fitness and the control of self, confidence in physical skills, and a sense of responsibility, athletes exhibited a decrease in hostility toward others and use of aggression as a communication strategy.

It is important to note that the positive life skills such as those discussed here, can be gained through participation in sports programs that prioritize skill development, team building, respect, and fair play, as opposed to those which prioritize a win-at-any-cost philosophy.