Five Myths About Women’s Sports

The Washinton Post’s Liz Clark wrote a piece last year entitled Five Myths About Women’s Sports. All of it is worth reading. But the fourth myth, Title IX is hurting men’s sports is particularly interesting since there is a particular minority who try to blame Title IX for the problems that some of the Division I men’s programs have hade.

From the piece in the Washington Post (emphasis mine):

Men’s college sports that don’t generate a profit — wrestling, tennis, gymnastics — are endangered species. To close multimillion-dollar budget shortfalls, athletic directors increasingly are dropping men’s sports teams and the scholarships and educational opportunities they represent. In response, the American Sports Council (formerly the College Sports Council) was created to rally support and spread the word that a wrongheaded application of Title IX, the U.S. law that guarantees equal opportunity for men and women at schools receiving federal funds, is the culprit.

“The long-term impact,” Eric Pearson, the organization’s chairman, wrote in the National Review, “. . . is that colleges will continue to eliminate men’s teams in order to comply with Title IX’s gender quota.”

It’s a fallacy. The real battle lines are between college sports’ “haves” ( football and men’s basketball) and its “have-nots” (men’s Olympic sports and women’s sports), as three-time Olympic gold medalist and law professor Nancy Hogshead-Makar explains in her book “Equal Play: Title IX and Social Change.”

The richest athletic departments compete in the NCAA’s Division I. And the richest among them — the roughly 65 that play big-time football, many with annual budgets of more than $100 million — generate and spend the lion’s share of their men’s budgets (78 percent) on two sports, football and basketball. The other men’s teams divvy up what’s left.

If their departments run deficits, Division I athletic directors can either rein in spending or eliminate a sport. Many, the University of Maryland included,have done both. In the past decade, Division I schools have cut 121 men’s non-revenue sports programs. But in Divisions II and III, which don’t compete in big-time football, men’s non-revenue sports are thriving, with more than 400 teams added in the past decade. If wrestling vanishes, blame football, not Title IX.

Purdue University Study Finds Benefits for Parents of Youth Athletes

While I have personally lived this, I had never really thought about this, but it makes sense: kids being active in youth sports has an impact on parents.

This Purdue study found a positive impact for parents of youth athletes. Some benefits include social friendships, improved spousal communication, and more. This links to the press release from Purdue as I have not found the full article yet.

Her Life Depends On It

Women’s Sports Foundation did an initial report about the impact of sports in 2004. They updated it with a 142 page report, Her Life Depends on It II,  in December 2009. This reports is a review of existing research on the links between sports and physical activity and the health and well-being of American girls and women.

There is a TON of material in this report. In addition to outlining the general conclusions here, I will also look at the source data as much as possible and post it as well.

General conclusions:

  • Research affirms, even more definitively than five years ago, that engagement in moderate and consistent levels of physical activity and sport for girls and women is essential to good health and well-being.
  • Although more research needs to be done, early studies examining the connections between physical activity and academic achievement show there is a positive relationship between the two in girls and women.
  • Females from lower economic backgrounds and females of color engage less in physical activity, have less access to sport and physical fitness programs, and suffer negative health consequences as a result.
  • Emerging research in prevention and training practices show that gender-conscious approaches to physical training and conditioning for female athletes help to reduce the likelihood of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries and concussions.

Student Athletes Academically Outperform Non Athletes by Wide Margins

A “massive” statewide study done in North Carolina in 2001 revealed “significant differences” in the academic performance of athletes and non athletes. The study looked at 125,000 high school students at 131 schools. The seven criteria looked at included: GPA, attendance rate, two different end-of-course testing components, discipline referrals, dropout rates and graduation rates. Athletes did better in every aspect.

  • GPA: The mean for athletes was 2.98. For non athletes is was 2.17.
  • Algebra End of Course Testing: The mean for athletes was 66.1 v. non athletes at 57.9.
  • English End of Course Testing: The mean for athletes was 61.4 v. non athletes at 50.8.
  • Attendance: Athletes missed and average of 6.3 days in a 180 day school year v. 11.9 for non athletes.
  • Discipline Referrals: Of discipline referrals made by the schools, 33.3% were athletes v. 41.8% that were non athletes.
  • Dropout Rate: The mean dropout percentage for athletes was 0.6% v. 10.32% for non athletes.
  • Graduation Rate: The mean graduation rate for athletes was 99.4% v. non athletes at 93.51%

Here’s an article about the study.

The Case for High School Activities

The National Federation of State High School Associations put out a short eight page publication, The Case for High School Activities, on the overall benefits of high school activities. This is not limited to sports. This short document pulls research from a variety of places and highlights some key findings.

  • participation in extracurricular activities in high school appears to be one of the few interventions that benefit low-status, disadvantaged students – those less well served by traditional educational programs – as much or more than their more advantaged peers.
  • students who took part in more vigorous sports like soccer or football or skateboarding, did approximately 10 percent better in math, science, English and social studies classes.
  • 18 to 25 year-olds who participate in sports activities while in high school were more likely than nonparticipants to be engaged in volunteering, voting, feeling comfortable speaking in public settings, and watching news (especially sport news).
  • an average of 78.3 percent of Alberta’s top corporate CEOs and members of the Legislative Assembly had participated in interschool sports. Nearly 80 percent 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 a normal participation rate for students in high school sports is around 30 to 35 percent.

Study on Sports and Teen Pregnancy

In yet another example of why we can not look at things in a vacuum, this study on Sports and Teen Pregnancy Study from The Women’s Sports Foundation looks at the impact of sports on teen pregnancy.

Here are their major conclusions:

  1. Female athletes are less likely to get pregnant. Nationwide, female athletes are less than half as likely to get pregnant as female non-athletes.
  2. Female athletes are more likely to be virgins.
  3. Female athletes have their first intercourse later in adolescence.
  4. Female athletes have sex less often.
  5. Female athletes have fewer sex partners.
  6. Mixed results for male athletes. One study shows male athletes becoming sexually active earlier than male non-athletes. A national study found similar results for African-American male athletes v. non athletes.
  7. Both male and female athletes are more likely to use contraceptives.

From the report: “Our results strongly suggest that, for girls, sports may be used as a developmental strategy in programs intended to reduce teen pregnancy.”

“We contend that sports are a cultural resource that builds girls’ confidence, sense of physical empowerment, and social recognition within the school and community. Girls may be using the self-reliance and social status gained through athletic participation to resist social pressures to exchange sex for approval or popularity.”

Girls: From the Locker Room to the Board Room

Results from a 2002 Mass-Mutual Financial Group and Oppenheimer Funds commissioned survey of more than 400 senior women business executives at companies with more than 100 employees are fascinating:

  • 81% played organized team sports growing up and continue to be physically active;
  • 86% believed sports helped them to be more disciplined;
  • 69% aid sports assisted in the development of their leadership skills and contributed to professional success;
  • 68% credited sports with helping them deal with failure;
  • 59% noted that sports gave them a competitive edge.

Frances Emerson, senior vice president at MassMutual Financial Group said, “And although participation in sports doesn’t necessarily equate to business success, athletics certainly teach women leadership skills, discipline and the ability to function as part of a team – traits that are key to a satisfying career.

The full title of the survey is: From the Locker Room to the Boardroom: A Survey on Sports in the Lives of Women Business Executives. I am trying to track down the original survey release. There are numerous citations to this online and in literature. Here’s a link to the press release when the study came out.

Youth Sports Helps Students Succeed in the Business World

Youth sports can have a major positive impact on kids. While old, this study is a big deal. A 1987 survey of individuals at the level of executive vice president or above in Fortune 500 companies indicated the following:

  • 95% had participated in high school sports
  • 54% were involved in student government
  • 43% were in National Honor Society
  • 37% in music
  • 18% in their school’s publications

I can not track down the actual source for this. However, I have found numerous citations. Here is a link to one in Social Issues in Sports.

Go Out and Play!

A massive 192 page study from the Women’s Sports Foundation published in October, 2008 covers a tremendous amount of ground.

The findings and conclusions in this report are based on two nationwide surveys. The Women’s Sports Foundation commissioned Harris Interactive to complete a school-based survey of youth drawn from a random selection of approximately 100,000 public, private and parochial schools in the United States. The school-based survey method yields highly reliable results. The nationwide sample consists of 2,185 third- through 12th-grade girls and boys. In addition, phone interviews were conducted with a national cross-section of 863 randomly selected parents of children in grades 3 through 12. Parents were asked how they think and feel about their children’s interest and involvement in sports and physical activity. African-American and Hispanic parents were over-sampled in order to deepen understanding of the needs and experiences of underserved girls, boys and their families.

Continue reading

Interesting Survey of Youth Athletes

An interesting study of 300 youth athletes between 8 and 14 found some interesting things:

  • When asked their #1 reason for playing sports, 56% say to have fun.
  • 84% wish they had more fun when playing sports
  • 84% say at one time they quit a team or wanted to quit. Why? 47% say because “it wasn’t any fun.” 29% say some teammates were mean. 23% say there were too many practices that interfered with other activities.
  • 31% wished adults weren’t watching their games – they say mostly because adults yell too much, are too distracting, make players nervous and put pressure on them to play better and win.
  • When asked how they feel if their team loses, 63% say they still have fun.
  • 1 in 5 children witnessed a physical fight between players.
  • 59% have seen a verbal fight between players
  • 36% have seen a verbal fight between parents
  • 61% say they or their team mates have been called “not so nice” names while playing.
  • When asked who called them names, 69% say it was someone on the other team. 35% say it was a teammate. 12% say it was someone else’s parent.

I am still looking for a link to the actual survey. But here is a link to a story about it.