How Does Playing a Sport Affect Your Grades?

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The typical argument against any extracurricular activity is that it interferes with studying and therefore causes mediocre or poor grades. Sports can especially consume much of a student’s time and energy at the expense of studying. Critics argue that students who pursue athletic goals are less likely to pursue academic objectives, such as a higher education degree. However, there is ample evidence showing that playing sports does not cause a decline in academic achievement. In fact, many research studies strongly suggest that playing sports positively enhances academic progress.

How Does Playing a Sport Affect Your Grades

Improves Focus and Cognition

One research study found that the more time a student spent playing a sport, the better they understood the classroom and homework material. Vigorous exercise improves blood flow to the brain, thereby improving alertness and intellectual functions, such as thinking and learning, decision-making and processing information. Compared to sedentary students, physically active students are 20 percent more likely to earn top marks in math, science and English. Moreover, high school student athletes are more likely to attend college and earn a degree than their counterparts.

Improves Attendance and GPAs

From a 2012 study of 35,000 student athletes, the Los Angeles Unified School District found a significant correlation between a student’s participation in high school sports and his or her attendance record and GPA. On the average, student athletes were present in school about three weeks more per year than non-athletes and boasted higher grade point averages by as much as 0.55 to 0.74 points. These statistics are amazing given that students go to school about 180 days per year and GPAs are generally based on a four-point scale.

Some critics argue that if student-athlete GPAs are higher than that of non-athletes, it’s because a minimum grade point average is required to play sports, and students who wish to do so strive to achieve that GPA. In other words, the higher grades are due to minimum GPA requirements, not the physiological effects of playing sports. This may be true, but still the bottom line is that playing sports generally leads to better grades.

Improves Standardized Test Scores

Several research studies indicate that, on the average, physically fit students perform better on standardized tests than students in less-than-ideal physical shape. For example, during the 2007-2008 school year, researchers analyzed state standardized test results from nearly 2.5 million Texas students between the ages of 8 and 18. The analyses revealed a strong link between a student’s level of physical fitness and his or her performance on standardized tests, despite there being no incentive to achieve a certain score on these types of tests.

Increases Self Esteem and Ambition

Participation in interscholastic sports can generally help student athletes perform better academically in comparison with non-athletes. In addition to improving cognitive function, playing sports helps students develop emotional ties with their community and elevates their self esteem. Student athletes work hard on the field and in the classroom to gain and maintain the approval of their teammates, coaches, parents and teachers. Playing sports can also help students gain college approval, as academic admission standards require a minimum GPA, minimum SAT or ACT score and a well-rounded high school background.


  1. Thanks for posting this – I have twins, a boy and a girl, who are in junior high. She is into art, music and theater, and he plays soccer and basketball, as well as running cross country. They’re both exceptional students academically. One thing I’ve noticed is that while parents will flip their lids over any potential budget-driven cuts to the arts, those same parents are happy to do away with sports and athletic programs.

    Some kids enjoy arts and music – others love physical activities. Both help students become better academically, and while it’s easy to dismiss student athletes as a bunch of dumb jocks, that’s typically not the case. Thanks for bringing this topic up, because it’s certainly worth talking about.

    1. Patti- I could not agree with you more.

      With all the boys in our home, not all of them are as interested in sports as the other. I love that music is an interest for them too. Two of our boys received ukuleles for Christmas. Our 12 year old is amazing at football and baseball, but certainly enjoys playing the guitar as well.

      While I acknowledge that sports build many characteristics in children, I also do not like to see parents living vicariously through their kids on the field or when sports interfere with family time. Some sports can be a religion and I am not a fan of that, personally.

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