Summer is a popular time for high school reunions, and those reunions are a popular time for reliving the accomplishments of high school sports teams of many years ago. Because I played on a winless football team during my junior year of high school, I don’t always take pleasure in such conversations.
However, I have the greatest discomfort when I sense that those reveling in past glory may have peaked in high school. There can be nothing worse, for them or for society.
While on-the-field or court exploits may become exaggerated over time, we may underestimate the intangible benefits that high school sports participation has provided.
Last month the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies published new research that links varsity high school athletic participation to future leadership. It suggests that such participation may (it’s not certain) nurture adults who have more self-confidence and self-respect, which are (certainly) linked to leadership.
The research also suggests a link to improved work habits as an employee and to greater philanthropy.
The researcher is Kevin Kniffin of Cornell University who continues to contribute plain talk and practical ideas to the role of extracurricular activities in secondary school education.
This type of research, and the tsunami of F-1 and J-1 visa students from Asian countries for the well-rounded “western” style education, should add to the dissuasion of those who suggest we jettison these “distractions” from junior high/middle schools and high schools.
While some “high school heroes” never were as great as they now think they were, the programs they engaged in may be even greater.