Being an athlete as a child typically means the child will have to spend extra hours throughout the week to practice, and playing on a team usually adds sports events to the child’s schedule where the child would have to miss school to attend. On top of these extracurricular activities, homework is usually required to be done at the same date it is required for non-athlete students. These factors may be thought of as an added stress children nowadays have to face, and it may be expected for athletes to have subpar academic achievement compared to non-athlete students. However, this is far from the truth. Recent studies have shown that athletes actually perform very well in school, even with this added stress.
According to Medina (2008), what may seem as unusual academic performance of athletes may be tied back to the lifestyle of early human ancestors. Fifty thousand years ago, the ancestors of humans were constantly on the move, with the men walking daily up to twenty kilometres, and around half that for the women. They were always moving for many reasons: in search of food, escaping from predators, and exploring and learning about their land. Because of this, they did all their learning while being physically active. This, combined with the fact that our brain evolves extremely slowly, contributes to the hypothesis that the human race does its best learning while getting exercise.
According to an article by Rosenkrantz (1997), in addition to the effects of exercise on the mental capabilities of a person, it is also believed that exercise in the form of team sports is beneficial to an individual. Playing on a team teaches valuable skills that may not be obtained in school or other places in a child’s life. These skills include: learning how to work with others in order to accomplish a common goal; relentless, hard work will yield success; everyone has a specific role and they must act upon it in order to achieve success; how to handle failure; and how to overcome challenges when things are not going smooth. Rosenkrantz discussed an American study (Carmichael, 1994) where 26,000 children who were involved in sports aged ten to eighteen saw winning as only the tenth-ranked reason they participated in the sport. Above winning, the kids ranked such factors as developing skills, being part of a team, and feeling the excitement and thrill of competing, with having fun as the top-ranked reason. Supporting this key idea is Breiter, a Canadian sports psychologist, who has plenty of first-hand experience dealing with children involved in sports. Both Breiter and Rosenkrantz believe that achieving a balance between these factors is crucial because in both the sports and real world, those who have excellent communication skills, are good at working in teams and sharing responsibility, and accomplishing communal goals, are the ones who are in the most advantageous positions to succeed.
However, there are millions of children who participate in sports,...