Exploring the Benefits of Sports in Higher Education
Studies surrounding matters of higher education institutions often revolve around academic or administrative topics. EdTech is a strong talking point, especially now during the pandemic. However, if HEIs prefer to position themselves in front of the competition, a strong sports program for local and international students is integral to their plans.
Key Points at a Glance
- Institutions can position themselves in front of competition with a strong sports program catering to local and international students.
- It’s proven that the young are more physically active and their engagement in sports may bring about a ton of benefits for body, mind and spirit.
- HEIs can also improve their revenue with sports — American College Football is one example. However, the college sports experience goes beyond income generation.
- Sports teach students more about life, how to handle victory and rebound from losses. HEIs have a duty to be better guides and facilitators throughout the whole process.
The importance of sports in college is often understated. During one’s formal education in his or her younger years, sports activities are often seen as “extras” and non-complementary to the shaping of the bright mind. There is a stigma attached to being a full-fledged athlete or varsity member, that they focus on sports first and education, second.
However, if HEIs look deeper into the role of athletics in higher education, sports in universities may very well become one of, if not, the top primary program.
A 2020 study by Gallup found that former athletes who graduated thrived in their lives and careers, and it’s largely because of the support systems they have found with their sports teams.
Perhaps even more interesting is the finding that former college athletes fare better than nonathletes in their personal and professional life after graduating. Not only does this study show how college sports affect education but remind institutions and individuals alike to revisit the question: “How important is athletics for college?”
Jessica Harlan, senior research consultant at Gallup, said: “We know that having a sense of belonging with your peers, having a connection with the university… these are helpful and promotive for minority students, first-generation students and other underrepresented groups in academia.”
“These are the things we find that are helping students do well in the athletic programs. How can we bring that to scale for the rest of the student body?” Harlan challenged HEIs.
In the context of American youth, sports have always been part of their lives. Nearly eight million students played a sport in high school from 2018 to 2019. HEIs can turn to this detail while building their respective sports programs in their own schools. The fact is, young students tend to be more active than those who are already in their 30s or 40s. The idea of involving themselves in sports then, becomes an easier sell.
Also, during this modern time when almost anything can be marketed because of social media, the commercialization of college sports is also a fact which some HEIs are tapping into for branding, marketing and financial targets.
In the US, college football is bringing in millions of dollars for universities annually. As of October 2021, USA Today reports that the University of Oregon was the top school raking in $391,769,609 for the year.
While making campus operations sustainable with a strong revenue stream is very much welcomed, of course, the goal of education will never be about revenue but on the preparation of individuals to discover more about themselves and how they can be of service to greater society.
Holistic Benefits on Sports
Generally speaking, sport activities greatly impact students holistically. They are not only physically active but are sharper mentally and much tougher emotionally. Thousands of studies have touched upon these benefits, and experts around the world are in agreement that sports have a premium place in higher education.
In the context of how important is athletics for college, here are a few more highlights:
Empathy and belongingness. Playing sports, most especially as part of a team, allows students to discover the power of a shared target or goal. Simply put, a competitive sports environment is the epitome of practicing the admirable qualities of team work. With proper guidance and facilitation, sports fosters inclusivity, and for international students, this is another opportunity to be able to connect with each other. Being part of a team, allows students to have another support group — another family away from home.
Health and fitness. This is perhaps the most obvious reason. Most sports involve some degree of physical training. Whether it is cardiovascular endurance or strength training, getting involved in sports affords the student a chance to be healthier in mind and in body. When people are healthier, their thinking may become sharper. They can process stress properly and not break down. They are also trained to follow schedules and routines. In the US, majority of college students are obese — sports can get them back on the right track of health and fitness.
Confidence and security. Self-esteem is a fragile subject with several factors to consider. In fact, one must remember that competitive sports show two sides of the coin—a winner and a loser. While sports may boost confidence for winners, losing may greatly affect students’ post-competition performance as well. However, it goes back to the institutions and their staff, who should be well-equipped and highly qualified to handle such situations. If treated right, sports allows students to realize the beauty of competition; humble in victory, gracious in defeat. In either case, leaders are made.
Sports in universities allows students to experience a world that’s beyond themselves. They are taken from individual pursuits and are exposed to shared experiences with other students from different countries. The importance of sports in college is also how it is a competitive avenue of shaping a future generation that is stronger, mentally mature, and rewards tenacity and grit.
It does not stop with the students — HEIs benefit as well from happy, healthy learners engaged in sports.
Anderson, G. (2020, June 24) Study: College Athletes Have Better Academic, Life Outcomes. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/06/24/gallup-study-shows-positive-life-outcomes-college-athletes
Jin, S. (2021, September 17) Retrospective survey of youth sports participation: Development and assessment of reliability using school records. PLOS One. Retrieved from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0257487
NCAA Finances: Revenue and Expenses by School (2021, October 14) USA Today. Retrieved from https://sports.usatoday.com/ncaa/finances
Caparrotta, M. (2020, November 14) Why Sport And Exercise Are So Important For College And University Students. The Sport Review. Retrieved from https://www.thesportreview.com/health-and-fitness/sport-exercise-college-university-students/
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