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Sports Science: The surprising reason to be a student athlete

The benefits of being a student athlete are often underestimated. There are the obvious perks: Student athletes receive anything from free tutoring to preferred scheduling at their universities. Plus, student athletes get to prioritize their health and well-being, and enjoy the social rewards of belonging to a team.

But what about that other thing... Academic success?

Studies done by The National Association of State Boards of Education, The University of Kansas, and other institutions have shown that athletes tend to outperform non-athletes academically.

There are a few theories as to why this unexpected disparity may exist. One simple explanation is based on a powerful incentive: In order for athletes to participate on their school's sports teams, they must have a minimum GPA and attendance record. This requirement alone might be enough to encourage student athletes to prioritize academics.

Another theory is that being a student athlete builds (and requires) discipline, the foundation for academic success. The discipline and structure demanded by a packed schedule helps student athletes stay focused and organized on everything, including academics.

Of course, it is also possible that student athletes succeed principally because of the lessons they learned from their lives of competing. Accepting pain during rigorous training builds mental strength, a trait that is also essential for spending long hours studying. Athletes already know that persistence and practice help them improve, and these same ideas apply to academic success. Consistent work leads to muscle gains and brain gains!

As a bonus to academic success, student athletes also learn a wide breadth of values and life skills. A TED-Ed video explores these skills, including how to learn through failure, work towards a common goal, increase self confidence, and reduce the risk of depression.

The video also introduces growth mindset, which is based on the belief that with hard work and effort, you can improve your skills - they are not static. This type of mindset is foundational to improving in all walks of life, including in sports, school, and work.

So, if you need an extra reason to be a student athlete, just know you might just graduate college with the best values, friendships, bodies, and GPAs at your school. So much for a dumb jock, huh?!



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