Sport Participation for Academic Success: Evidence From the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children


Background: We aimed to identify long-term patterns of sport participation (overall, team, and individual sport) from childhood into adolescence, and to examine the association between these patterns and academic outcomes. Methods: This cohort study used data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children in wave 3 (4-5 y) to wave 9 (20-21 y). The participants were a nationally representative sample of 4241 children. We conducted latent class analyses to identify sport participation trajectories and assessed the association between these trajectories and academic outcomes. Results: Continued sport participation was associated with lower odds of being absent from school (OR = 0.44; 95% confidence intervals [CIs], 0.26 to 0.74), better performance on attention (B = -0.010; 95% CIs, -0.019 to -0.002) and working memory (B = -0.013; 95% CIs, -0.023 to -0.003), higher numeracy (B = 20.21; 95% CIs, 14.56 to 25.86) and literacy scores (B = 9.42; 95% CIs, 2.82 to 16.02), higher end of school academic performance (B = 3.28; 95% CIs, 1.47 to 5.09), and higher odds of studying at university (OR = 1.78; 95% CIs, 1.32 to 2.40). Team sport participation was associated with reduced absenteeism, better performance on attention and working memory, and being awarded the Higher School Certificate. Whereas individual sport participation was associated with higher literacy scores and end of school academic performance. Conclusions: Team and individual sport participation both benefit academic outcomes, but differently. Given the decline in sport participation during adolescence, these findings highlight the need to develop educational policies to establish an environment that promotes sport participation, which in turn could improve academic outcomes. © 2024 Human Kinetics, Inc.

Journal of Physical Activity and Health