High school athletics offer students immediate and long-term benefits

High school sports

School sports are an excellent option for all teens, especially those who aren't performing well in the classroom or lack confidence. Numerous studies highlight the advantages and benefits of school sports for youth. These advantages range from better academic performance to long-term health benefits and improved social skills. Read more

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"The Hill Academy is Canada's premier independent school for students in K-12/PG. Students are challenged in a supportive environment to explore the boundaries of their academic, athletic and leadership potential." —From the school

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School sports are fun, but also provide meaningful benefits

School sports are fun, but they also offer a number of benefits, including substantially reducing the risk of obesity and giving kids better control over their body weight and strength.

Joining a sports team requires students to set goals for physical fitness and strength while introducing students to a regular routine. Playing a team or individual sport requires discipline to practice and improve skills, a quality that resonates with other areas of a student's life. "Our school has a very strong focus on participation in sports," says Jane King, Athletic Director at The Bishop Strachan School in Toronto. "Through sports, students are able to problem-solve and build skills in teamwork," she says. At The Bishop Strachan School, a balance is struck between sports and academics. "Students benefit academically with sports, because it is such a great stress reliever. If a student happens to fall behind academically, the coach and the teacher will always have a sit-down to discuss a plan for the student to succeed both athletically and academically. Taking away sports is never an option."

The Bishop Strachan School
The Bishop Strachan School

Studies support King's belief in the importance of sport in a student's life. Regulated physical activity reduces depression and anxiety, relieves stress, improves self-esteem and relationships with parents, raises energy levels and alertness and develops overall mental health1.

The positive 'side-effects' of athletics translate to better classroom performance and higher grades. Studies also show that school sports have a positive effect on students in other areas. Sports have led to a reduction in juvenile arrests and dropouts primarily because they give students the added incentive to go to school and focus. For example, researchers have learned that teen girls who participate in sports tend to have higher graduation rates and better grades.

Athletics are a cornerstone of the school community

Athletics provide student-athletes the opportunity to contribute to the school's culture. "The students at our school participate in a multitude of athletically related activities throughout the year such as Crazy Sports Day which is a day ordinary sports are given extraordinary twists, and an end of the year Athletic Banquet where awards are handed out acknowledging the students for their participation in athletic excellence," says King.

An athlete's contribution can translate to a strong identification with the school and the positive values set by the school for its students2. At Holy Trinity School, student-athletes embody the school's values through international service. "Many of our student-athletes participate in service programs. These programs have travelled to the Dominican Republic, South Africa, Peru, and Nicaragua," says Nicola Thompson, teacher and coach at Holy Trinity School, a Christian school in Richmond Hill, Ontario. At many schools, sports are a way for students to get involved in the school community and make a positive impact on their local and international communities.

Long-term benefits of sport

In addition to the immediate benefits that sports provide for students, there are many long-term benefits. Lower cholesterol levels and improved cardiovascular health are among the many long-term advantages. According to one survey3, which studied a group of men in their 70's, there was a very strong correlation to the individuals who were active in high school and the ones who were still active and keeping excellent health in their later years. The conclusion was that "relatively vigorous exercise and physical education classes could be promoted across all grade levels [and] they need not concentrate on competition but rather on enjoyment."4

The Bishop Strachan School
The Bishop Strachan School

Ultimately, research demonstrates that organized sports should be funded and preserved by schools because of the correlation to improved health now and later on in life. These research results are already being implemented by schools like Bishop Strachan School, whose goals include building "confident athletes who will participate in sports for the rest of their life," King says.

It is evident that physical activities at a young age not only contribute to better health, but also to life skills including the ability to work within a team and social skills that will follow your children throughout their careers.


  1. "Exercise for mental health", www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, January 13th, 2014.

  2. "Benefits of school-based sports", www.globalsportsdevelopment.org, January 13th, 2014.

  3. "Playing high school sports may be tied to older men's good health", https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/playing-high-school-sports-may-be-tied-to-older-men-s-good-health-1.2479037, January 13th, 2014.

  4. "Playing high school sports may be tied to older men's good health", https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/playing-high-school-sports-may-be-tied-to-older-men-s-good-health-1.2479037" rel="nofollow", January 13th, 2014.

Written by Jordan Coutinho

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