Contact: Ana Rhodes
[email protected]
(305) 284-1601

November 9, 1998


CORAL GABLES, FL -- Middle and high school students who participate in sports express less hostility toward their classmates and are more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college, according to the preliminary results of an ongoing national study.

"We are finding that individual students who participate in sports are less likely to be hostile or antagonistic toward other students regardless of their race or ethnicity," said Jomills Braddock II, director of the University of Miami's Center for Research on Sport in Society, who is heading a team of researchers analysis the data from the national study. "Sports require teamwork in the pursuit of mutual goals to achieve success. With sports, young people learn to recognize and value the unique and important contributions of their diverse teammates."

Although the data is still being analyzed, Braddock said that another emerging pattern is that at-risk youths greatly benefit from participating in sports programs at their schools. Data from the study shows that African American student-athletes are 10 percent more likely than non-athletes to plan to take college AP courses and 10 percent more likely to make plans for attending college.

"Involvement in sports appears to enhance a student's academic aspirations, investments, and achievements," said Braddock. "For example, our initial investigations indicate that among African-American males, student athletes are more likely to have actually enrolled in college prep programs, graduated from high school, and matriculated in college."

Preliminary analyses also show that schools where teachers and principals report placing strong emphasis on sports and extracurricular activities experience lower levels of conflict among students of different races. For these reasons, Braddock said that it's important for school administrators to be aware of these results when deciding whether or not to retain their sports programs.

"We want this research to benefit educators and policy makers, who because of budgetary problems, may have to decide whether to keep or eliminate their school sports programs," said Braddock, who also serves as chairman of UM's sociology department.

The study is based on national data collected by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. Data collection began in 1988 and followed 14,000 students beginning in eighth grade through 1994. Researchers monitored the group every two years by interviewing the students and having teachers, principals and parents fill out questionnaires. The data provide a nationally representative sample of students, including students from major cities of every race and socio-economic background.

Braddock, and his UM colleagues Marvin Dawkins and Joan Alway, have been awarded approximately $400,000 for a three-year research grant titled "Athletic Investment, Academic Promise: How Participation in School Sport May Foster Academic Resilience and Investment Among At-Risk Students. "The grant, which is from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement, will be used to further explore these issues over the next three years.

Recognizing the fact that sport has become a major social institution, the University of Miami established the Center for Research on Sport in Society (CRSS) earlier this fall. An interdisciplinary center, CRSS is founded on the basic principle that sport is an institution that can and does affect our lives and our society in profound and sometimes dramatic ways.

CRSS faculty are conducting scholarly inquiry related to two themes: sports and culture, and sports and life-course/ human development issues. Researchers include UM faculty from a wide variety of academic disciplines. In addition, CRSS also will involve faculty from a number of other universities throughout the U.S., including the University of Massachusetts, New York University, University of Pennsylvania and San Francisco State University.

"If you were to take an opinion poll, large numbers of Americans would say they believe sports are a good thing for young people," said Braddock. "But perhaps equally larger numbers of people would either doubt or have questions about the value of sports in young people's lives. One of the primary goals of the new center is to contribute substantially to that sorely needed knowledge base."

Another important area of research that CRSS will be examining focuses on how educators can use children's fascination with sports as a tool to illustrate complex principles in math and physics while maintaining the interest of students. Teachers could teach basic principles of physics by explaining how a curveball works as well as using computer programs that involve managing a team or acting as a coach and calling plays.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: For more information about the CRSS or its research studies, contact Professor Braddock at 305-284-6768 or 305-284-3690.

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