Participation in extra-curricular activities provides all students – including students from disadvantaged backgrounds, minorities and those with otherwise less than distinguished academic achievements in high school – a measurable and meaningful gain in their college admissions test scores according to researchers Howard T. Everson and Roger E. Millsap, writing for the College Entrance Examination Board in 2005.
In a 2006 research project published by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), it was found that 18-25 years old who participate in sports activities while in high school were more likely than non- participants to be engaged in volunteering, regular volunteering, registering to vote, voting in the 2000 election, feeling comfortable speaking in a public setting, and watching news (especially sport news) more closely than non-participants.
An extensive study commissioned by the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association found, in that Canadian province in 2006, an average of 78.3% of Alberta’s top corporate CEOs and Members of the Legislative Assembly had participated in interschool sports. Nearly 80% indicated that being involved in school sports significantly, extensively or moderately complemented their career development and/or academic pursuits. This same study pointed out that normal participation rate of students in high school sports is around 30 to 35%.
The corporate and political leaders surveyed in Alberta (see above) cited the following benefits associated with their involvement in high school athletics: teamwork, discipline, goal setting, leadership, independence, self confidence, stress relief, character development and personal growth, fair play, and acceptance of others.
Activity programs fulfill students’ basic needs, help in students’ attitudes toward self and school and minimize dropout and discipline problems.
Researcher Richard Learner, writing in Promoting Positive Youth Development through Community After-School Programs, found that informal educational and developmentally supportive experiences offered to young people in the context of after-school or community-based programs are a potent source of resources increasing the probability of positive development among youth.
In 2003, the Journal of Adolescent Research reported that extracurricular activity participation is linked to lower rates of dropping out of school, greater civic involvement and higher levels of academic achievement. Moreover, research tracking participation from eighth through twelfth grades and examining outcomes in the postsecondary years concluded that consistent participation has positive effects that last over a moderate length of time.
Extracurricular activities stand out from other aspects of adolescents’ lives at school because, according to the Winter 2005 issue of the Journal of Leisure Research, they provide opportunities to develop initiative and allow youth to learn emotional competencies and develop new social skills.
A study conducted by Boston University, and published in Adolescence, Winter 2001, reported on a survey of 1,115 Massachusetts high school students. Survey results indicated that athletes were significantly less likely to use cocaine and psychedelics, and less likely to smoke cigarettes.
Researchers writing in 2004 in the American Journal of Health Behavior conducted an examination of cross-sectional data from a nationally representative sample of high school students enrolled in public high schools in the U.S. They showed that students participating in organized sports were 25 percent less likely to be current cigarette smokers