An Importance to Engage Children in Physical Activity During the Day

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Staying physically fit is important for children’s growth whether they are at school or playing with friends; that is why it is important for children to engage in some form of physical activity during the day. The extent of children’s physical health involves how active they are during the day as well as after school; therefore, to ensure children are getting the appropriate amount of physical activity, parents make an assertive effort to have them participate in extracurricular activities after school as well as on weekends. An extracurricular activity is not always a sport; it can also include clubs and organizations as well as cheerleading, dance, band and the arts. Even though remaining active is beneficial for a child’s overall growth and development; too much of it is not good especially when it relates to his/her social, emotional and educational well-being. The journals, articles and reviews take pro and con positions as it relates to children’s participation in extracurricular activities. The information in the readings consists of an array of ages from elementary through high school that gives more of a perspective view on the topic. Therefore, the final analysis whether extracurricular activities have an effect on the academic performance of students is determined not only by a case study, model, survey or questionnaire but also whether the extracurricular activity is a school or non-school based activity, the amount of time spent on the activity, the age of the children and the socio-economical level of the students. Therefore, there are different variables that determine whether extracurricular activities affect the academic performance of students. So, the question still remains, do extracurricular activities affect the academic performance of students?

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Key words: extracurricular activities, co-curricular activities, school-based extracurricular activities, adolescent leisure, data, GPA, ESA, ECA, HSB , NELS, NCES, adolescent adjustments, longitudinal study, methods, models, results and conclusion.


Extracurricular activities are an extension to a child’s physical, social, emotional and psychological development as they learn the value of sportsmanship, peer interaction, clubs, relationship building and various other social activities. While most schools do offer children some form of physical activity such as recess or physical education during the school day, some children extend their physical activity with extracurricular activities as implemented by their parents that they participate in after school and on weekends. Children need to have an active life-style and the extent of that life-style depends on the child’s interest and the parent’s choice as to how often the child will participate. Even though remaining active is beneficial for a child’s overall growth and development too much of it is not good, especially when it relates to his/her social, emotional and educational well-being.

The journals, reviews, models and methods take different positions as it relates to children’s participation in extracurricular activities. Nevertheless, regardless of the choice a parent makes, one must consider the health and well-being of the child, the child’s prolonged interest in the activity and if the activities intrude on the academic progression of the child. Too often, parents become so involved in a child’s extracurricular activities to the point of putting his/her education on the back burner which cause the child to ignore his/her schoolwork, complete homework on the school bus or in the car, spend less time on the schoolwork or put it off altogether which results in failing grades.

Pros: Effects of Extracurricular Activities on the Academic Performance of Students

There are some educational benefits to a child engaging in extracurricular activities after school. In Jennifer A. Fredericks & Jacquelynne S. Eccles (2006) Is Extracurricular

Participation Associated with Beneficial Outcomes states that “There is a growing body of research in leisure studies, sociology, sports psychology, and adolescent development demonstrating the beneficial effects of participation in extracurricular activities” (p. 698). Activity participation has been positively linked to academic outcomes, including grades, test scores, school engagement, and educational aspirations (Cooper, Valentine, Nye & Lindsay, 1999; Eccles & Barber, 1999; Marsh & Kleitman, 2002).

Other research has documented a relation between extracurricular involvement and psychological outcomes, such as higher self- esteem and lower rates of depression (Barber, Eccles, & Stone, 2001; Eccles & Barber; 1999; Mahoney, Schweder, & Stattin, 2002). Marsh & Kleitman (2002) find that joining more co-curricular activities and spending more time participating in them is associated with higher grades, more difficult courses selected, more time spent on homework, more colleges applied to, a higher likelihood of starting and finishing college, and a higher final degree earned, even when other factors are controlled. Each additional hour per week spent on co-curricular activities leads to a .045 increase in GPA, 13 more minutes spent on homework per night, and .155 more university applications; these effects are greater than those of structured out-of-school activities like youth groups and community service organizations and influence a significantly larger range of academic outcomes (Shelly, 2008). In a similar study, Eccles and Barber (1999) tracked more than 1, 800 Michigan students for 10 years and found that involvement in performing groups like drama club, academic organizations like debate club, and school involvement activities like pep club and student council all have a positive effect on a student’s GPA and likelihood that he or she will attend college full-time.

Pro: Effects of Extracurricular Activities on the Academic Performance of Students

In addition, Guest and Schneider (2003) analyze data from the University of Chicago’s Alfred P. Sloan Study of Youth and Development, which surveyed 6,453 students in sixth, eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades over five years; even with controls in place, participants in all types of co-curricular activities had significantly high GPAs and more ambitious college plans. Interestingly, participation in non-athletic activities is associated with higher grades in all schools serving low-income students (Shelly 2008).

Furthermore, even though Beckett A. Broh ‘s analysis is from a longitudinal study, the results are similar to the surveys that were completed by other writers; Broh states that “Other studies have drawn on more recent longitudinal studies and offers evidence that participation in sports improves academic performance and students’ grades; longitudinal studies are more powerful than cross-sectional studies for limiting the effects of selection bias and establishing a better case of causal order between independent and dependent variables” (2002). With this said, does the longitudinal studies appear to have more validity than any other study since the process repeats itself for an extended amount of time with the same person or groups of people which makes the results more accurate?

Interestingly enough, Nancy Darling, Linda Caldwell and Robert Smith (2005) have similar opinions but use interchangeable wording in their explanation as it relates to extracurricular activities that states “Adolescents who participated in ECAs reported higher grades, more positive attitudes toward schools, and high academic aspirations once demographic characteristics and prior adjustments were controlled” (p. 51). “Leisure provides adolescents with unique developmental opportunities as well as opportunities; leisure also provides

opportunities for identity exploration and skill building (Kleiber1999) as well as both social differentiation and integration” (p. 52). “One class of leisure is adolescent leisure which are school-based extracurricular activities, and they provide highly structured leisure environments, in which adolescents can exert control and express their identity through choice of activity and actions within the setting” (p. 52). Participation in school-based extracurricular activities provides many of the positive developmental opportunities offered by other forms of leisure, but may provide more protection against experimentation with problematic activities such as drugs or alcohol use than unstructured social leisure settings (Caldwell & Darling, 1999; Shann, 2001).

“In addition, participation in school-based extracurricular activities may provide adolescents access to social networks, activities, resources, and equipment that would be otherwise unavailable to them as well as provide youth the opportunity to associate with peers different from those they encounter at home and in the classroom” (pp. 52-53); this participation which would create a social network of friends as well as new interests once the students become actively involved. Hirschi (1969) writes “Participation in leisure activities in the school setting may help foster additional emotional bonds to the school, create opportunities for emotional bonding to teachers and other school-associated adults in a context outside of classroom, and this increase students’ emotional commitment to school and the adult-sanctioned values associated with schools” (p. 53).

Pros: Effects of Extracurricular Activities on the Academic Performance of Students

It is interesting how attendance plays a role in the academic performance of students who participate in extracurricular activities. Shumow writes, “Attendance is an important factor in evaluating the effects of after-school programs on children’s school adjustments (p.3). Pierce and

Vandell (1999) demonstrated that academically at-risk children who attended after-school programs more frequently, as compared with children who attended less often, developed better work habits in their school classroom, attended school more often, and endorsed less aggressive strategies to resolve conflicts with peers; program attendance was related to program quality which found that children resist attending programs where staff is negative and activities are limited, boring, and inflexible” (p.3).

As one looks at the implementation of status and race, the findings are varied but interesting. Postner and Vandell (1999) studied low-come and working-class urban children and found than those who attended the after-school programs engaged in more non-sport extracurricular activities in third through fifth grade and more academic activities in third and fourth grades than non-program children. For the low-income African-American children in their sample, time doing non-sport extracurricular activities after school was associated with better teacher reported emotional adjustments in school; time socializing was associated with better grades and work habits (p.3).

From the above information Shumow’s “Research indicates that children from high-risk backgrounds have both the most to gain from after-school programs in terms of educational

opportunity and the least access to after-school programs. Research findings also indicate that if educational benefits are the goal of the after-school programs, then attention needs to be focused on the quality of programs and the activities that are offered. Programs cannot benefit children who do not attend or resist participation. Some research suggests that giving children activities choices, engaging them in enrichment activities, and supporting socialization with peers will pay academic dividends” (p. 4).

It appears that most of the pro advocates support extracurricular activities because participation in them enhance student performance in the classroom, builds self-esteem, improve test scores [which builds academic success for the student], opportunities to network with new students [which improves student-student interaction that sparks emotional and social growth], and the opportunity to participate in an activity the student enjoys. In other words, the success in academic performance as it relates to extracurricular activities include having a feeling of self-worth that triggers the thought of “the need to improve” or do your best; this constitutes why a student becomes more focused, has more drive and ambition to do well.

Cons: Effects of Extracurricular Activities on the Academic Performance of Students

Although there is much research that shows an increase in academic performance of students who participate in extracurricular activities, there is some research that does not show an increase in academic achievement of students who participate in extracurricular activities. Broth (2002) writes, “Based on the findings from Melnick and his associates (Sabo and VanFossen (1992a, 1992b; Melnick, Van Fossen, and Sabo 1998; Sabo, VanFossen, and Melnick 1993) who completed numerous longitudinal studies on sports and education, their results indicated that with the exception of a few subgroups and outcomes, participation in sports is generally unrelated to educational achievement” (p. 70). “Additional findings from Marsh’s (1993) longitudinal study of the HSB [High School and Beyond] data supported Melnick’s results; Marsh found that playing sports in high school has no significant effect on grades or standardized test scores in the general student population” (p. 70).

In addition to the criticism as it relates to the extracurricular activities on the academic performance of students, Broth states “School sports have been the focal point of research on

extracurricular activities. Early analysis of the effect of the participation in sports on academic achievement produced inconsistent evidence; whereas some students supported the ‘dumb jock’ stereotype (Coleman 1961; Landers 1978), others suggested that athletes outperform non-athletes in school (Rehberg 1969; Schafer and Armer 1968). Regardless of their findings, none of these studies analyzed nationally resentative samples and many failed to control for background differences such as race, family income, and parents’ educational attainment between athletes and non-athletes. Furthermore, as cross-sectional designs, none of them was able to provide evidence that the relationship between sports and achievement is causal; not simply a function of the selection of better students into sports participation” (p.70). Moreover, “Recent research on sports and achievement has addressed this selection bias by using longitudinal data that provide outcome measures at low points in time and estimate changes in academic performance. Longitudinal studies are more powerful than cross-sectional studies for limiting the effects of selection bias and establishing a better case for causal order between independent and dependent variables”(p.70).

Cons: Effects of Extracurricular Activities on the Academic Performance of Students

As it relates to other findings, researchers such as Fredricks and Eccles have found criticism in the role that extracurricular activities play on the academic performance of students as it relates to their socio- economic status and race. They write, “Another huge criticism is that much of the research has focused on White, suburban, middle-class youth” (p. 699). “There is a critical need for studies of the association between extracurricular participation and youth development for minority adolescents living in a variety of ecological contexts” (Lisella & Serwatka, 1996; Pederson & Seidman, 2005). “Surprisingly, little research has been done to

examine how ethnicity, socio-economic status, and gender may moderate the relation between activity participation and development”. (Mahoney, Larson, Eccles, & Lord, 2005). “Marsh found that the effects were generally consistent across variable levels; the most consistent interaction effects were for socio-economic status: youths from low-income families benefited more from extracurricular participation than youths from high-income families. There were few differences in the relation between extracurricular participation and development by gender” (p. 699).

Nevertheless, Broth’s final conclusion says it all that states, “Their studies have indicated that with the exception of a view subgroups and outcomes, participation in sports is generally unrelated to educational achievement” (p. 70). Additional findings from Marsh’s (1999) longitudinal study “Found that playing sports in high school has no significant effect on grades or standardized test scores in the general student population” (p. 70). Therefore, from the standpoint of the different researchers, it appears that most of the con advocates do not find any validity in the participation of extracurricular activities to enhance student performance in the classroom, building self-esteem, improving test scores and developing social skills in students.

With so much information from both sides of the issue, one must look at the methods and models used in determining whether the participation in extracurricular activities affect the academic performance of students. From Broth’s point-of-view, the questions still linger: “Why may participating in school sports or other school activities boost student achievement? What do student-athletes gain through sports that help them academically? Researchers have specified for decades about the potential benefits of participation, but little empirical evidence exists. Furthermore, the evidence that largely exists is largely indirect and inconclusive. The use of the

developmental model and leading –crowd hypothesis represent long-held beliefs on the benefits of sports participation that has yet to be thoroughly tested. The social capital model is a newer perspective, which synthesizes various sources of social capital theory as it applies to school achievement. Because our knowledge has derived almost solely from research on school sports, I center my review and discussion on the effects of participation in sports and address the generalizability to participation in other forms of extracurricular activities” (p. 71).

As it relates to the method of choice, “In my analysis, I used NELS:88, a nationally representative, longitudinal study sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), U. S. Department of Education. NELS is an excellent database for studying changes in educational achievement during the high school years. It is particularly suited for this study because of its abundance of specific measures of students’ participation in extracurricular activities across waves of data. Thus, it is the most recent nationally representative, longitudinal data appropriate for this study” (p. 73). So, based on the methods the researchers used, the collection of data is the main resource selected as a method in determining the outcome as it relates to student participation in extracurricular activities.

In accordance to research completed and the findings of the researchers both pro and con, it appears that in order to determine the final results and conclusion as it relates to whether participation in extracurricular activities has an effect on the academic performance of students will depend on several circumstances such as: the sport or activity itself, the gender of the child participating, the supervision of the activity or sport, its location [school-based or off campus], amount of time devoted to the sport or activity [weekdays or weekends only], transportation to and from the activity, interference with schoolwork; social bonding with friends and home as well as completing responsibilities at home[chores].

Therefore, to answer the question presented in the abstract as to whether extracurricular activities affect the academic performance of students is inconclusive based on the criteria listed above. Even though participating in extracurricular activities can be beneficial to students, too much of it can interfere with their social, emotional, physical and educational well-being as a child.

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