Effects of Interscholastic Activities on the Wellness of Adolescent StudentsFor many years, interscholastic athletics have been labeled as beneficial for the high school athletes that participate in them. A few people even argue that participation in interscholastic athletics is an essential part of high school life. It is important to determine the effects interscholastic athletics has on the dimension of wellness of student athletes. It will be determined if participation in high school athletics is beneficial for students and the intellectual, emotional, physical and social dimensions of wellness will be the focus of this paper.
The intellectual dimension of wellness can be defined as a state in which the mind is actively engaged in the world. In a student's life it can be applied to aspects of learning and academic achievement. Each student benefits psychologically from interscholastic activities when their focus is on health and physical activity rather than on more superficial concerns such as body image or physical attractiveness (Erkut & Tracy, 2002). The additional time commitment of participation in sports does not detract from time spent doing homework or studying (Fisher, Juszczak, & Friedman, 1996). Time itself is not detrimental to student's academic performance. Interscholastic athletics do not take away from a student's learning potential and improves the student's psychological health as long as the reason the student participates is not a superficial reason.
The emotional dimension of wellness can be defined as an ability to understand personal feelings, accept limitations, achieve emotional stability, and become comfortable with personal emotions. It can be applied to aspects of emotional intelligence and a person's ability to convey and understand emotion well. Competitive athletics may be an important protective experience and may offset the negative effects that low grades have on students' self esteem (Gore, Farrel, & Gordon, 2001). Studies have shown that student athletes are no more likely to behave aggressively than non student athletes (Rhea & Lantz, 2004). Interscholastic athletics has the potential to increase a student's self esteem and does not teach or advocate unnecessary aggression.
The physical dimension of wellness can be defined as a health body maintained by good nutrition, regular exercise, avoiding harmful habits, making informed and responsible decisions about health, and seeking medical assistance when necessary. It can be applied to the physical health of student athletes. Male athletes reported significantly less drug use, as well as fewer propensities to drink and drive than male non athletes (Rhea & Lantz, 2004). However, female athletes reported higher incidence of drinking while driving than female non-athletes (Rhea & Lantz, 2004). According to one study, participants in sports smoked cigarettes no more or less than non-participants (Fisher et al., 1996). According to another study, cigarette use is also lower among adolescents participating in organized sports (Castrucci, Gerlach, Kaufman, & Orleans, 2004) indicating that the lower incidence of drug, alcohol, and cigarette abuse may be due to the idea that participation in organized sports presents a teachable moment when, in context of improved performance, adolescents may be more receptive to tobacco prevention or cessation as well as other drug and alcohol prevention strategies (Castrucci et al., 2004). Unfortunately, smokeless tobacco and cigar use is more likely among adolescents participating in organized sports (Castrucci et al., 2004). This may be due to the media imagery of tobacco behaviors of professional athletes which influences the same behavior in adolescents (Castrucci et al., 2004). The media portrays many professional athletes as users of smokeless tobacco and non-users of cigarettes.
Drug, alcohol, and tobacco use are not only concerns for the physical wellness of student athletes. Many students are pressured to gain or lose weight for their sport, respectively. Football players are pressured to gain weight while wrestlers are under heavy pressure to lose weight. Twenty-one percent of female student athletes and 19% of male student athletes reported losing weight for their sport. Twenty one percent of male student athletes and 6% of female student athletes reported gaining weight for sports (Fisher et al., 1996). Steroid use is also a rising concern in the adolescent population, especially football players and wrestlers. Some student athletes reported use of anabolic steroids; 4% female, 11% male (Fisher et al., 1996). There are many factors to consider in the physical dimension of wellness for an athletic adolescent population.
The social dimension of wellness can be defined as an ability to related well with others both within and outside the family unity. A major part of adolescent life is how socially accepted a person is. Since male athletic events are the main social events of high school, both male athletes and female cheerleaders have considerable visibility, and since being well known is an important aspect of peer status, participants in these activities were likely to be members of the elite group of their school (Eder, 1987). Male and females have different expectations for social behavior. Males are expected to be achievement oriented competitive, and aggressive (Eder, 1987). Females are encouraged to smile and be concerned with their appearance (Eder, 1987). Females participating in different sports such as basketball or volleyball are not required to be concerned with their appearance but are still culturally encouraged to maintain a feminine personality on and off the court. The values promoted during these formal activities of athletic competition are incorporated into the informal peer culture of everyday life (Eder, 1987). This prepares males for the highly stratified and competitive labor markets that most of them will enter (Eder, 1987). Males and females hold different values and engage in different activities which makes it increasingly difficult to engage in comfortable non-romantic interactions. This is likely to continue into adulthood unless opportunities are more available (Eder, 1987). It is through these formal athletic activities that schools have the most impact on adolescent behavior and values (Eder, 1987). Organized peer activities bring males and females together and provide opportunities for formal interaction away from formalities of an interscholastic athletic event. These activities promote traditional gender relations and values showing how schools continue to play an important role in reproducing gender differences (Eder, 1987).
Interscholastic athletics has not been shown to have a negative effect on the ability for young people to achieve academically. In fact, many schools offer athletic programs as an incentive to do well in school by having a minimum grade point average requirement. Participation in school sports has a positive effect on self esteem and helps to lift the depression off of athletes with low grades. Aside from the sport related injuries and smokeless tobacco use there are no indications that participation in competitive athletic programs has a negative effect on the wellness of student athletes. The school system promotes traditional gender roles of men and women through interscholastic athletic activities. In conclusion, the effects of interscholastic activities on the wellness of students are more beneficial than detrimental.
Castrucci, B. C., Gerlach, K. K., Kaufman, N. J., & Orleans, C. T. (2004). Tobacco use and cessation behavior among adolescents participating in organized sports. American Journal of Health Behavior 28(1), 63-71.
Eder, D., & Parker, S. (1987). The cultural production and reproduction of gender: The effect of extracurricular activities on peer group culture. Sociology of Education, 60(3), 200-213.
Erkut, S., & Tracy A. (2002) Predicting adolescent self-esteem from participation in high school sports among Latino subgroups. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 24(4) 409-429.
Fisher, M., Juszczak, L., & Friedman, S. B. (1996). Sports participation in an urban high school : Academic and psychologic correlates. Journal of Adolescent Health, 18(5), 329-334.
Gore, S., Farrell, F., & Gordon, J. (2001). Sport involvement as protection against depressed mood. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 11(1), 119-130.
Rhea, D. J., & Lantz, C. D. (2004). Violent, delinquent, and aggressive behaviors of rural high school athletes and non-athletes. Physical Educator, 61(4), 170-176.