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.