Researchers describe why athletes have successful careers

A new study published by the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies offers an explanation for why high school students who play sports increase their chances of a successful professional career.

High school athletes have better professional careers, according to a new study.
High school athletes have better professional careers, according to a new study.

The study concluded that former student athletes have greater leadership, self-confidence and self-respect. Past research has shown that student-athletes earn more than non-athletes throughout their careers, but this study offers more of an explanation for why that may be.

Business Insider spoke with one of the project’s lead researchers, Kevin Kniffin, a professor at Cornell University.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Kniffin suggests that there’s something unique about athletics — and while there’s more research to be done to investigate a causal relationship between sports and success, he has some theories that could potentially explain the link. “Being part of a team, working intensively with teammates, managing a common resource, and interacting closely with a coach where there’s a common goal” are all potential factors, he says.

Kniffin didn’t look at how different types of sports affect success, but that’s his next project. If crew is the ultimate team sport, then are one-time rowers even better leaders than former track stars?

In the survey, 43 percent of participants reported past participation on a varsity high school sports team, 44 percent reported volunteering, 13 percent reported having a career in upper management and 9 percent reported having a career in the trades.

“Based on these results, we show that there appears to be long-term correlates of participation in competitive youth sports that persist for more than 55 years,” according to the study. “More specifically, our results show a positive relationship between participation in competitive youth sports and several measures of long-term personal success and prosociality.”

The complete study can be viewed here.

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