As parents, we all like to think we’re steering our children toward activities and opportunities that will help them lead happy, productive and fulfilling lives. We encourage them to work hard, have integrity, take risks, show gratitude, be respectful, etc.
But at some point, deep down, every parent realizes there are no guarantees. There’s no formula that ensures success, but there are definitely behaviors, activities and opportunities that increase the chances your child will become a successful, ethical and happy adult. According to recent research, participation in youth sports is one them.
A 2014 study by Kniffin, Wansink, and Shimizu examined how participation in high school sports correlated with a person’s behaviors and accomplishments later in life. Here are some of their findings:
Parents often look to youth sports to help their children develop leadership skills, self-confidence, and self-respect. According to the research from Kniffin and his colleagues, managers looking to hire people for entry-level jobs have the expectation former student athletes possess those skills and traits, which gives them a competitive advantage. They even looked at whether this advantage was specifically associated with sports, or whether participation in any organized activity provided the same advantage. Compared to former band and yearbook members, former student athletes were perceived by managers to have greater leadership skills, self-confidence, and self-respect.
Certain lessons learned through sports help young workers advance in their careers. Youth sports expose kids to organizational leaders (coaches) early on, which research has shown to be an important component of learning leadership skills. Team sports also “reward group-level achievements and appear to facilitate the enforcement of group-serving behavior.” In other words, former student athletes are better team players in a career setting, and grow to become leaders who strive for the success of the team.
Supporting prior research, a 2010 study by Betsey Stevenson showed participation in high school sports had a positive effect on the amount of education people attained, the likelihood of being employed as an adult, and the wages they earned. Stevenson’s work focused on the effect of Title IX on the success of women in the workforce, and two results of particular note were that 1) Higher wages only correlated with participation in high school sports, and not any other extracurricular activities, and 2) Title IX led to a substantial increase in the percentage of women who subsequently pursued traditionally male-dominated, higher-wage careers.