Healthy body, healthy mind

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan
Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

Much has been said about playing sports at an early age and its effects on academic success.

Studies have shown that participation in sport boosts popularity, promotes self-confidence, and raises educational aspirations.

Some studies have shown that school sports increase conformity which in turn increases access to rewards in the system, such as good grades. For this reason, schools that invest in extracurricular activities are able to reap all the benefits.

But does the same apply to student athletes here in Canada? Kevin Milonja certainly believes so. Milonja is a fitness instructor for a hockey excellence program and teaches math to grade eight students at Heritage Regional high school in St-Hubert.

“The research I’ve compiled says that yes, sports do have a positive impact on students’ studies,” said the 24-year-old, who is also a personal trainer at Nautilus Gym.

He attributed classroom success with particular skills that are learned via participation in sports such as organization.

“You have to organize your time around the sports you play,” said Milonja. “That means you can’t procrastinate; you have to organize effectively, which leads to better grades.”

While organizational skills help avoid procrastination, there are other incentives to participate in sporting activities.

According to Mike Rinaldi, a campus recreation co-ordinator at Concordia University, regular physical activity, which can take a variety forms, such as sports, aerobics, etc., can reduce stress, improve the quality of sleep, strengthen the immune system, and promote relaxation and energy — factors that help with the daily academic grind students experience.

“Students will feel less tired, tend to be more focused on their academic goals and are more resilient to the mental and physical stresses brought on by academic expectations,” said Rinaldi.

For Rinaldi, a healthy body is a prerequisite for a healthy mind, but that sentiment is not shared by all.

In a summary report entitled Boys’ Academic Achievement, commissioned by the Quebec Government, researchers state otherwise. The report cites a number of school principals questioned in a survey, stating the impact of sports does not extend beyond its immediate effect on student’s behaviour, motivation, self-esteem, and class attendance.

Researchers behind the report rejected the notion that sports can have a positive impact on academic results, but some would argue that this stands in stark contrast to reality.

The Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sports has devoted significant resources to student-athletes and there are approximately 300 sports-study programs across Quebec.

While they are designed to recognize and develop promising athletes throughout the province, the program has prioritized academic achievement. Students who fail to reach academic requirements are dropped from the program.

In 2009, the ministry took the program to new heights. Student athletes who are designated as ‘exceptional’ are now offered additional pedagogical assistance. The assistance comes in the form of tutors and teachers who are available for instruction during off-days.

The purpose of this new initiative is designed to ensure that exceptional athletes, who are bound to miss school for extracurricular activities, get the necessary academic assistance.






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