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DEVELOPMENT OF HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS

Athletic Participation and Its Impact on the Development of High School Girls

Hattie N. Burford

Chadron State College

June 22, 2017


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Abstract

Females who compete in interscholastic athletics during their high school career may experience

several unique benefits. This study and literature review aims to understand the impact of

interscholastic athletics on the development of high school girls. The publications discussed in

this review are references for the research study being proposed. Ideas and findings taken from

the publications are related to female self-esteem and femininity, social ties, character and

values, educational goals, test scores, and grade averages. The findings are used to review the

work that has been done in this area of research. The studies that were reviewed were the effects

of athletic participation on both male and female students, and the mechanisms that may link

participation to academic success. The results show that participation in interscholastic athletics

promotes female students’ development, and improves achievement in specific content areas.
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Table of Contents

Abstract…………………………………………………………………………………………..2

Table of Contents……………………………………………………………………………...…3

Athletic Participation and Its Impact on the Development of High School Girls…………….4

Statement of Problem……………………………………………………………………………..4

Literature Review…………………………………………………………………………...…….5

Self-Identity……………………………………………………………………………………6

Socialization…………………………………………………………………………………....8

Value System…………………………………………………………………….…………….9

Educational Achievement……………………………….……………………….………...….11

Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………….13

Statement of Hypothesis…………………………………………………………………………14

References………………………………………………………………………………………..15
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Athletic Participation and Its Impact on the Development of High School Girls

The role of interscholastic athletics in high schools has received much interest over

the last several decades. Researchers, as well as the general public, have discussed the

possible benefits of participating in interscholastic athletics such as academic achievement,

educational expectations, character building, increasing self-esteem, and constructing

relational networks through acquiring interpersonal skills. In recent years, competitive sport

for females has become increasingly legitimized in terms of mass participation, expanded

programs, and budgetary allocations (Spreitzer, Snyder, & Kivlin, 1978). This shift in social

norms now allows us to look deeper into the benefits of interscholastic athletics for young

female athletes.

There has been a consistent discussion about the belief that participation in sports

socializes students in ways that promote educational success (Broh, 2002). Sports

participation has been argued to develop a strong work ethic, self-esteem, maturity in

working with others, and perseverance. These are skills that are considered consistent with

educational values and thus help students achieve in and out of the classroom (Broh, 2002).

Though academic achievement may have many definitions, the research on the topic will

focus on female students’ grade point average (GPA), along with scores on math, science,

and English tests.

Statement of Problem

The effect of participation in interscholastic activities on the development of high

school girls will be examined with the use of literature and research. Participation in athletics

promotes students’ development, in this case we will be specifically looking at female


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development, and social ties among students, parents, and school staff. These are instruments

that play a role in the positive effect of academic achievement (Broh, 2002).

Furthermore, female high school students who participate in athletics reap the

benefits of success in science, mathematics, and engineering during their sophomore and

senior years of high school (Hanson & Kraus, 1998). The problem to be studied will explore

the mechanisms that link participation to the development and academic achievement of high

school girls. The mechanisms to be explored will be self-esteem and femininity, social ties,

character, and work ethic.

Literature Review

The review of related literature on this topic will be utilized as a guide for the

research bring proposed. The literature review is broken into three subsections that discuss

the mechanisms that link participation to the development of high school girls, and a fourth

subsection that discusses the direct effect of participation to academic achievement. The

subsections include: self-identity through self-esteem and femininity, socialization via

athletics, the value system of an athlete that resembles that of the educational system, and the

effect of participation on academic outcomes.

The number of female participants in high school sports has increased a significant

amount over the last several decades. Female participation increased from .25 million in

1970-1971 to 2.36 million in 1995-96 (Hanson & Kraus, 1998). According to the National

Federation of State High School Associations, a survey taken in 2014-2015 showed that

female participation in high school sports increased to 3.29 million. The change in the

number of females engaging in interscholastic sport has essentially been attributed to Title IX

of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Troutman & Dufur, 2007). This amendment
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prohibited any institution receiving federal funding from practicing gender discrimination in

educational programs or activities (Troutman & Dufur, 2007). With interscholastic sports

becoming a more prominent pursuit for females, there has been an abundance of research that

explores the effects of participation in sports in the development and academic success of

female students. Recent studies have discovered that young females who participate in

interscholastic sports experience some unique benefits (Troutman & Dufur, 2007).

Self-Identity

Though a significant increase of female participation in sports can be seen in the last 30

years, there are still many questions about which sports are “socially acceptable”, how young

female participants respond to the general attitudes towards the female athlete, and how female

athletes’ self-identity is affected. According to Spreitzer, Snyder, and Kivlin (1978), the order of

sports that enhance feminine qualities ranks swimming most desirable, followed by tennis,

gymnastics, softball, basketball, and track in descending order. Despite established negative

perceptions of female athletes, college women who were seriously involved in sports tended to

report higher morale, life satisfaction, and overall happiness than their nonathletic counterparts

(Spreitzer, Snyder, & Kivlin, 1978).

In fact, Spreitzer, Snyder, and Kivlin (1978) go on to say:

Our findings do not reveal negative associations between female sports participation

and our measures of self-identity. On the contrary, slight to moderate positive

relationships emerged in the opposite direction. (p. 19)

Females’ social involvement in sports allows them to come together; creating a sense

of unity, identification, and personal identity (Hanson & Kraus, 1998). Self-confidence in a

student’s abilities comes from the feeling of recognition and accomplishment often resulting
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from success in sports. The increase in self-esteem and a feeling of recognition compels them

to achieve success in other areas, such as academics (Hanson & Kraus, 1998). Repeated

successful experiences in sports, such as learning new skills or winning a competition, are

thought to develop self-confidence and maturity, which also carry over into educational

pursuits (Broh, 2002).

Despite the growing number of girls participating in sports, athletics continue to be a

male dominated extracurricular activity (Videon, 2002). In the Unites States, sports are

commonly viewed as a social institution created by men to mirror traditional male

stereotypes of dominance and aggression (Hanson & Kraus, 1998). The traditional gender

construction of families, schools, and communities encourages boys to be outgoing,

aggressive, independent, and analytic (Hanson & Kraus, 1998). These are the characteristics

that are thought to be important for success in subjects such as science (Hanson & Kraus,

1998). Meanwhile, girls are encouraged to be passive, dependent, and nurturing, which

introduces the question of interest: whether participation in the nontraditional arena of

interscholastic athletics is a resource that gives young females an edge in academic subjects

such as science. (Hanson & Kraus, 1998).

Nonetheless, the past research that has indicated girls’ experienced role conflict

between expectations for being a female and being an athlete may be obsolete (Videon,

2002). The transformation in cultural ideals suggest that previous findings may not reflect the

experiences of more recent cohorts of female athletes. These changes are evident in the

increase of the positive visibility of athletic women (Videon, 2002). For example, NBC

declared the 1996 Summer Olympics “the year of the woman” and world renown Mia Hamm

and the 1999 World Cup women’s soccer team drew attention from all sectors of society
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(Videon, 2002). Additionally, contemporary research suggests that participation in sports has

increasingly become a route to prestige for adolescent girls (Videon, 2002).

Socialization

Most sports are a collective activity in which all individuals share wins and losses

(Videon, 2002). As more employers emphasize the importance of teamwork, these skills will

become increasingly more valuable (Videon, 2002). Therefore, the peer groups and social ties

that are formed through participation in sports enhance the female athletes’ potential

achievement in academics (Hanson & Kraus, 1998).

Young girls’ friendship circles are generally small, intense, and based on building and

maintaining relationships. However, athletic participation stresses competition,

independence, and achievement, which are not traits that are encouraged in girls’

socialization practices (Videon, 2002). Furthermore, sports participation offers student

athletes a higher peer status, primarily consisting of college-oriented, high achievers that in

turn, facilitates higher academic performance (Broh, 2002). This “leading crowd” hypothesis

is supported by evidence that athletes are more likely to be associated with a college-oriented

peer group than are nonathletes (Broh, 2002). The social interaction between college-oriented

adolescents and mutual influence contributes to the symmetry of their future plans (Snyder &

Spreitzer, 1977). Snyder and Spreitzer (1977) found that education expectations of close

friends is a slightly better predictor of education expectations than grade average for

adolescent girls.

Not only do female athletes benefit from peer influences, but also from the

connection to adults, specifically parents and teachers. The increased opportunities for these

specific social interactions, create and strengthen female students’ ties to their parents and
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teachers. These interactions act as a source of social control that encourages students to

comply with school norms and expectations, and in turn, generates greater success in school

(Broh, 2002). According to research done by Broh (2002), playing sports significantly

increases how often students talk with their parents about school related issues, and increases

students’ contact with teachers outside of class. Playing interscholastic sports is positively

related to how much parents have contact with the school, as well as with other parents. The

creation and intensification of these social ties can be advantageous to students’ educational

pursuits (Broh, 2002).

Value System

Females who participate in interscholastic sports have a stronger sense of control over

their lives, and a value system that is concordant with the American educational system

(Broh, 2002). By learning to live by and believe in this value system, female student athletes

are more likely to be considered to have a strong work ethic, and a valued character. The

emphasis in sports on the goals of winning and success, together with the values of hard

work, deferred gratification, planning, competition, and organization, are thought to prepare

student athletes for success in other areas such as academics (Hanson & Kraus, 1998).

Moreover, participation in sports allows young females to practice the attitudes, skills, and

values that are important for future success (Hanson & Kraus, 1998). Unlike the mentality in

men’s sports, female athletic contests place a greater emphasis on improving one’s own

ability, cooperation, and feeling good, which lead to greater character development among

female athletes (Videon, 2002).

In the past, the world of competition in sports and other areas of life have excluded

women (Hanson & Kraus, 1998). The goal attainment section of sports functions as a
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valuable resource for young women who are wanting to expand their opportunities. Women

who are athletes have been found to be considered more achievement oriented, independent,

self-confident, and inner controlled than those who are not (Hanson & Kraus, 1998).

According to Hanson and Kraus (1998):

Girls are called on less in mathematics and science classes, and women scientists are

seldom included in key networks and power groups in science occupations. This

treatment is not so much a result of females’ deficits in technical skills as of their

perceived failure to act in ways that follow the male tradition of science. Young girls

who are given an early opportunity to be involved in a male domain like sports may

well be less intimidated and more prepared for this male culture in science classrooms

and work settings. (p.106)

However, it is noted that the effects of sports on science achievement may be more

indirect through course taking and attitude than that of anything else (Hanson & Kraus,

1998).

Likewise, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)

believes that sports promote citizenship, sportsmanship, pride in the community, and teach

lifelong lessons of teamwork, self-discipline, and facilitates the development of youth

(Yeung, 2015). These are all qualities of young females that are sought after in today’s

society to become responsible and productive adults. This is considered the spillover effect of

athletics that has been labeled by Broh (2002) as the “developmental model”, which enables

female athletes to become “well rounded”, and achieve academic success (Yeung, 2015).

Also, research indicates that involvement in interscholastic sports is particularly relevant for

the development of leadership skills in female athletes (Videon, 2002).


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In an article written by Yeung (2015), he describes the relationship between athletic

leadership and academic achievement. The leadership quality that he describes is naturally

learned from sports, and teaches valuable teamwork and facilitation skills, of which may be

useful in group activities in the classroom. According to research done by Yeung (2015),

athletic leaders score significantly better than nonleaders in reading, Math I, science, and

vocabulary.

Yeung (2015) goes on to say:

The gains to athletic leadership are larger than the gains of athletic participation,

suggesting leadership has a benefit over and above the benefit of athletic

participation. While serving as a leader of an athletic team, students may learn

valuable teamwork, time management, and organization skills that improve their level

of achievement in the classroom. (p. 382)

These findings are relevant when we are considering female participants in sports that

develop the role of a team captain or leader on their team.

Educational Achievement

Hanson and Kraus (1998) found that many girls begin to lose interest and do less well

in science (defined as science, mathematics, and engineering) in the high school years. A

theme that is shared to many explanations for this gender gap is that science is a male domain

with rules and expectation that create obstacles for women, much like the sports arena in the

United States (Hanson & Kraus, 1998). However, Hanson and Kraus (1998) argue that young

women who compete well in one of these domains, learn to develop skills, networks, and

attitudes that help them in the other.


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Young women’s participation in sports had a significant positive effect on the access

and attitudes towards science in their sophomore and senior years of high school (Hanson &

Kraus, 1998). Broh in 2002 found that participation in interscholastic sports is positively

associated with students’ math and English grades. In line with Hanson and Kraus’s findings,

sports further boost students’ achievements in the classroom and on standardized math tests

(Broh, 2002). Furthermore, students who participate in sports have better attendance records,

lower rates of discipline referrals, are more likely to be in a college preparatory curriculum,

and aspire to, enroll in, and graduate from college (Videon, 2002). Another study found that

females who engaged in interscholastic high school sports had higher odds of completing

college than do nonathletes (Yeung, 2015).

Videon (2002) also concluded that a comparison of educational outcomes indicated

that sports participants have moderately better outcomes than do their nonparticipating peers.

Girls have significantly better educational outcomes, fewer unexcused absences, take more

core courses, have higher grade point averages, and have higher expectations to go to college

than boys do (Videon, 2002). However, Videon (2002) found that the beneficial effect of

sports participation is significantly less for female athletes’ unexcused absences and

academic expectations than for male athletes. Additionally, Videon (2002) found suggestive

evidence that athletics may have a more positive impact on boys’ grades than girls’.

Nonetheless, when comparing female athletes to their nonathletic counterparts,

female athletes tend to have higher grade averages and higher educational goals (Spreitzer,

Snyder, & Kivlin, 1978). Spreitzer, Snyder, and Kivlin (1978) also compared the differences

in the effects of participation in sports and music, and found that girls involved in both had

higher grade averages and educational goals than girls involved in solely sports, or solely
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music. Additionally, their study showed that athletes tended to report slightly higher

educational goals, but had slightly lower grade averages. This study was significant to

highlight that sports participation and music participation are two separate entities in their

effects of the development of young females.

Conclusion

In today’s society young females’ self-esteem, social groups, work ethic, and outlook

on academics are common topics of concern. Furthermore, there is an increase in discussion

about how to support and service young women in these areas. However, there is evidence

that participation in interscholastic sports not only benefits young females in the classroom,

but benefits young females in the classroom by providing them with increased self-esteem,

larger social ties, and a stronger work ethic.

From the literature presented, the discussion of a female athlete’s self-identity has

been a large concern in the past due to the traditionally male dominated athletic arena, along

with the negative perception of female athletes. However, more recent literature proved that

contemporary culture now idolizes female athletes, boosting their self-confidence in different

areas of their lives. The literature also presented findings that participation increases females’

social groups, creating a network in the educational system that encourages academic growth.

From previous research conducted, there was significant indication that the values

learned from athletics create a spillover effect on academic achievement. Lastly, research

discussed on this topic illustrates a positive effect of participation on achievement in subjects

such as mathematics, science, engineering, and English. Grade averages, educational

expectations, and scores on standardized tests were also discussed in the literature with

several findings of a positive effect of participation.


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Statement of Hypothesis

The data supports the inference that young female students who participate in

interscholastic sports benefit individually, socially, and academically. Therefore, it is

hypothesized that female athletes who participate in interscholastic sports will experience

increased self-esteem, a larger social network, learned values associated with greater

character and work ethic, and greater academic achievement. This hypothesis will be proven

after comparing the self-esteem, social ties, and character development in relation to

academic achievement of high school female athletes who participate in interscholastic

athletics to high school females who do not participate.


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References

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Benefits and Why? Sociology of Education, 75(1), 69-91. doi:10.2307/3090254

Hanson, S. L., & Kraus, R. S. (1998). Women, Sports, and Science: Do Female Athletes Have an
Advantage? Sociology of Education, 71(2), 93-110. doi:10.2307/2673243

Snyder, E. E., & Spreitzer, E. (1977). Participation in Sport as Related to Educational


Expectations among High School Girls. Sociology of Education, 50(1), 47-55.
doi:10.2307/2112644

Spreitzer, E., Snyder, E. E., & Kivlin, J. E. (1978). A summary of some research studies
concerning the female athlete. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 3(1), 14-19.
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Troutman, K. P., & Dufur, M. J. (2007). From high school jocks to college grads: Assessing the
long-term effects of high school sport participation on females educational attainment.
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Videon, T. M. (2002). Who plays and who benefits: gender, interscholastic athletics, and
academic outcomes. Sociological Perspectives, 45(4), 415-444.
doi:10.1525/sop.2002.45.4.415

Yeung, R. (2015). Athletics, athletic leadership, and academic achievement. Education and
Urban Society, 47(3), 361-387. doi:10.1177/0013124513495277