Here’s why kids should participate in sports

Story at a glance


  • For the study, researchers from The Ohio State University surveyed nearly 4,000 adults across all 50 states online between fall 2018 and spring 2019.

  • Participants were asked to rate themselves on a five-point scale on eight statements not directly related to sports, including “I am diligent. I never give up” and “I am a hard worker,” to measure their grit. 

  • Researchers found that those who played sports as kids scored higher on the grit scale than those who did not.

Children who participate in sports develop a trait critical to success later in life, according to a new study.  

The new research found that organized sports led kids to develop “grit,” a combination of passion and perseverance that may help one overcome a challenge. But they have to keep playing and resist the urge to quit. 

“Kids who participate in sports learn what it is like to struggle as they learn new skills, overcome challenges and bounce back from failure to try again,” the study’s lead author Emily Nothnagle said in a news release. “The grit they develop playing sports can help them the rest of their lives.” 

For the study, researchers from The Ohio State University surveyed nearly 4,000 adults across all 50 states online between fall 2018 and spring 2019.  

Participants were asked to rate themselves on a five-point scale on eight statements not directly related to sports, including “I am diligent. I never give up” and “I am a hard worker,” to measure their grit.  

Researchers found that those who played sports as kids scored higher on the grit scale than those who did not. Further, 25 percent of people who never played sports in their youth scored low on the grit scale compared to 17 percent who did participate in sports.  

“Adults who played youth sports but dropped out did not show higher levels of grit.  They actually demonstrated lower levels of grit after we included a proxy measure of how sports mattered for the development of grit while growing up,” said study co-author Chris Knoester, associate professor of sociology at Ohio State. 

America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news. 

The study suggests people might gain or lose grit throughout their lives, as adults who participated in sports over the last year under survey parameters gained grit even if they did not play sports as children – though adult participation was not limited to organized sports. 

“Sports offer this valuable place in society where you can work hard and practice and take it seriously, but it is also not real life to some extent– typically, sports are thought of as a separate sphere of life and the stakes in sports are not as far-reaching and extreme,” Knoester said. 

“But you can take those lessons you learn and practice in sports, such as building grit, and apply them in your life outside of sports in very useful ways.” 

Pre-pandemic data from the Aspen Institute’s Project Play found that 56.1 percent of children ages 6-17 said they “participated on a sports team” or “took sports lessons after school or on weekends.” 

READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA 

DEPRESSION IS LIKELY NOT CAUSED BY A CHEMICAL IMBALANCE IN THE BRAIN, STUDY SAYS 

EXERCISING MORE THAN RECOMMENDED COULD PROLONG YOUR LIFE: STUDY 

AROUND HALF OF OLDER AMERICANS CAN’T AFFORD ESSENTIAL EXPENSES: REPORT 

WEAK GRIP COULD BE SIGN OF UNDERLYING HEALTH ISSUES, STUDY FINDS 

WHY PUT SOLAR PANELS ON THE SURFACE OF WATER?