Bowen and Hitt on Sports in School

My former students and sometimes co-authors, Dan Bowen and Collin Hitt, have a superb piece in Phi Delta Kappan Journal on the history and evidence on sports in schools.  They demonstrate convincingly that sports improve academic outcomes and play an important and positive role in K-12 schools.

They also successfully rebut claims by Amanda Ripley and others that sports should be taken out of schools and instead be provided by club teams, as is common in Europe.  As it turns out, the rigorous research contradicts the casual observations based on journalistic tourism.  In particular, Dan and Collin debunk three commonly made claims about sports in schools:

#1. Sports participation has no role in academic development; in fact, sports might undermine academics.

#2. Adopting European-style sports club programs would enable adolescents to participate in sports while eliminating any negative influences that school-sponsored athletics have on academics.

#3. Eliminating school-sponsored sports will increase student participation in other extracurricular activities.

Be sure to check out their piece in the Kappan.

4 Responses to Bowen and Hitt on Sports in School

  1. Ann in L.A. says:

    Unfortunately, out here in Los Angeles, with a lousy public education system, and limited seats in private schools, many of the private junior highs and high schools have turned “athletes do better in school” into “we only accept athletes”. Many non-athletic kids end up wondering why they can’t get into good private schools, and the pressure to get non-athletic kids into some sport becomes enormous.

  2. momof4 says:

    All 4 of my kids were elite athletes from young ages and I’ve never heard of argument #3. I’ve also not heard any athletic parents – or parents from dance, music, theater etc – disputing #1. As far as #2 is concerned, I’ve had personal experience and lots of anecdotes from others of frequent times and places where the athletic tail is wagging the academic dog in public schools. I only know one private where that was true – and that was at a recognized jock school. Ann’s comment is one reason why I’d like to separate school from sports. After all, boarding schools are always different – kids are there 24/7 for months on end; not a good justification for school sports in general.

    Where I disagree with the whole school-sports-are-so-great-and-must-be-kept mantra, is that, in many areas and in many sports (perhaps even most), school sports are a small, often insignificant part, of the total athletic experience. In the 4 HS districts, in 3 states, where we lived, the kids who played HS sports – definitely varsity and usually JV – had many years of club/elite training prior to HS – or even MS. The non-school sports were at a much higher skill/tactical level and were the source of the focus, discipline, time management etc skills and habits that school-sports promoters attribute to school sports – and which do transfer to the academic sphere. Three of my kids had club coaches who also coached multiple HS state championship teams in those sports – and they were very explicit that the quality of the HS team depended on the number of team members coming from top-level club programs – soccer players (male and female) on teams competitive at the Snickers Cup state tournament and state/regional teams, swimmers with zone or national qual times etc. Those kids didn’t need school sports; they were an addition, done for school spirit – and I knew national-level swimmers who never swam in school. Most sports have a club structure that runs all the way to the national, often international, level. Football is an exception, and perhaps basketball. Kids who arrive in school nationally ranked in tennis aren’t learning much in HS tennis. In fact, I know club/private coaches who do not allow their athletes to be coached by HS coaches; the tennis kids do matches only and swimmers only practice relays; everything else is done outside of school.

    I think it should be remembered that the Phi Delta Kappan is part of the ed establishment, which likes to think that it owns k-12 kids and that, just because something is a good thing, schools should be the ones doing it. (just read that teaching 2nd-graders to ride a bike is now a priority for DCPS – even if those kids can’t read or add) I disagree. Like private schools – and, to an extent – charters, clubs (and city rec) can target specific groups of kids and parents can choose which best fits their kids; no one-size-fits-all approach.

  3. […] time-management and increasing cognitive function. For reasons such as these, research suggests athletics increase academic achievement in K-12 […]

  4. […] Bowen and Hitt on Sports in School. (2016, April 29). Retrieved October 22, 2017, from […]

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