Playing youth sports a sign of career success?

Jun 20, 2014

Earning a varsity letter in high school for playing sports will mean better jobs and increased philanthropy later in life. That's the consensus of new research from Cornell University.

Two coinciding studies looked at the success of people who played a sport in school. The first asked potential employers and co-workers to look at extra-curricular activities of potential hires.

The employers favored athletics over other activities, like marching band, as former athletes stood out for their perceived personal qualities.

The study, a survey of 66 employed adults, found the employers assumed those who played sports have more self-confidence and leadership qualities.

About four in 10 high school students play a sport.

Lead researcher Kevin Kniffin of Cornell University says the second study looked at men a half century after their playing days.

"Certainly the research suggests there are important benefits that accrue across a person’s life well past high school for participating in sports," he said.

The research found a majority of the more than 900 men surveyed had jobs with higher leadership status jobs 60 years after earning their letterman jackets.

The study also found those men volunteered more often and gave more to charity, Kniffin said.

The research could be beneficial for students mapping out their high school years, he suggested. 

"And I think beyond high school students, the research provides encouragement for any parents of young children who might wonder about the investment of time of taking their kids around to different practices," Kniffin said.

The research was published online in the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies.