Sports in Schools Term Paper

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Sports on Self-Esteem: An Investigational Analysis

The purpose of this study is an examination of the relationship between sports and self-esteem. In particular this study will seek to determine whether or not a relationship exists between high self-esteem and sports participation, particularly among high school and collegiate students. The hypothesis being examined is as follows: Participation in sports during the high school and collegiate years contributes to improved self-esteem. The researcher will combine qualitative analysis of the research with quantitative field examination to prove or disprove this hypothesis.

The aim of this research project will include an evaluation of whether or not sports in schools have a positive or negative impact of the mental well being and sense of self-image on students. Specifically this study will investigate whether or not active participation in sports during the high school years and beyond contributes to a positive or negative body image, and whether students who participate in sports are more likely to achieve success in their personal and academic life. The preliminary results of the study indicate that active participation in sports does have some impact on student's sense of self-esteem and achievement.


The purpose of this study is an examination of the impact sports participation has on self-esteem and a student's sense of self-worth. While there have been numerous studies that have investigated this phenomena, few have come to a consensus regarding the impact sports participation has on student achievement.

The researcher will attempt to examine the following questions during the course of this research:

(1) How does sports participation impact student self-esteem and achievement,

(2) Does a lack of participation impact self-esteem and student achievement.

The researcher hypothesizes that a direct relationship does exist between student participation in sports and self-esteem. This idea will be examined and proved or disproved through the course of the study.

Significance of Study

There have been numerous studies in recent years that have attempted to evaluate the effects of exercise and sports on one's well being. The results of many of these studies have been controversial. It is important for the medical community and for individuals working with students and the population at large to understand the relationship that exists between sports participation and self-esteem. Numerous correlations studies have suggested that a relationship does exist between self-esteem and sports.

This study will aim to fill the gap in current research that currently exists by examining what exactly the effects are of sports participation. In particular the study will attempt to determine whether individuals who participate in sports are more likely to benefit from higher self-esteem than those who do not.

A comprehensive review of the literature will be conducted in order to determine what if any impact sports has on self-esteem. The information gathered from the literature review will be used as a reference point and compared to information gathered from the field. This will enable the researcher to make sound, grounded and scientifically-based conclusions regarding the relationship that may or may not exist between sports participation and athletics.

Literature Review

In order to determine whether or not sports impacts ones self-esteem one must first analyze the studies that have been previously conducted in order to determine whether one can reasonably hypothesize that a relationship exists between these two variables.

Bowker, Cornock & Gadbois (2003) point out that an obvious link exists between sports participation and physical competencies, however the link between sports participation and self-esteem is less evident. There have been a number of previous studies examining the issue, with some reporting that individuals participating in sports have higher self-esteem than those do not (Taylor, 1995). However there are conflicting studies, which suggest that the link between sports participation and self-esteem, is less distinguished (Bowker, et. al, 2003).

There are some studies that suggest the need for further research into sports and its relationship to self-esteem. Bowker, Cornock & Badbois (2003) suggest that researchers have yet to determine how sports participation enhances self-esteem or at what levels this occurs.

Dunn, Gotwals & Wayment (2003) point out that perfectionism may influence athletes in their perusal of achievement and goals. There is abundant information to suggest that a majority of athletes are influenced by competitive experiences and have a desire to strive for perfection, however such aspirations may lead to unnecessary stress and a tendency to set unrealistic expectations for one's personal performance (Dunn, Gotwals & Wayment, 2003).

Billups (1999) points out studies that show that between grades eight and 10, girls are more likely to realize confidence and persevere in challenging subjects including science and math related subjects when they participate in sports. There study suggests that sports particularly during the middles school years enables young girls to do better in science and subsequently enter more "traditionally male-dominated professions including engineering and medicine" (9). There study also suggests that competitive sports are far more likely to foster feelings of improved self-esteem than non-competitive sports, or sports focused on image and body size such as cheerleading.

Another study conducted by Whitfield (2004) suggests that children at specialist sports colleges may "develop significantly higher physical self-esteem compared to those at traditional state schools" (40).

Sports colleges are believed to have a "beneficial effects on all components of physical self-worth" at least when one examines male pupils (Whitfield, 2004). There are many studies which suggests that the effect on self-esteem for collegiate sports participants is more noticeable I males than in females (Whitfield, 2004). This may be due to the fact that male students typically are exposed to more challenges than female students particularly in high school and collegiate athletic programs (Whitfield, 2004).

Gustafson (2001) notes that low self-esteem may result in psychological and physiological dysfunction. Further he notes that exercise and participation in sports may help prevent illness associated with lack of activity and help improve self-esteem. His research suggests that involvement in sports at any level may help improve self-esteem among students and ordinary citizens alike.

There are a number of studies which suggests that people that already have high self-esteem are more likely to participate in sports than individuals that do not; in addition there are a number of experimental studies which suggest that long-term participation in sports or exercise programs may contribute to an increased sense of self-esteem and confidence in both adults and children (Fox, 2000).



The researcher surveyed a designated number of students regarding their perceptions of how sports impacted their overall sense of well being and self-esteem. The researcher then will determine what if any correlations or similarities exist between the results acquired in the field through observations and interviews and the information gathered from the literature review.

From these combined observations the researchers intends to support or disprove the hypothesis and develop conclusions that are grounded in scientific and well though out processes.


The researcher will use a survey instrument for purposes of this study. There are numerous studies that support the use of a survey questionnaire to gather information regarding a specific phenomena (Taylor, 1995). Qualitative research lends itself to examination of phenomena that impact human behavior, and relies heavily on observation rather than strict experimental design (Taylor, 1995). Thus for purposes of this study the researcher embarked on a qualitative analysis of the impact sports participation has on student athletes.


The subjects examined include 10 high school students participating in regular sports including soccer, basketball or swimming. The students must have participated in sports for a minimum of one year. As a control, the researcher will also interview 5 students that are not involved in sports to determine whether or not their lack of participation is influenced by or has an effect on their self-esteem.

All subjects will be able to provide information anonymously for purposes of this study.


The results of the study indicate that 80% of students participating in sports at the high school level have a high self-esteem. Students that participate in sports believe that they are more likely to achieve the goals they set out for themselves and can generally be described as achievers. The study also shows however that 75% of respondents not involved in sports also believe that they have a high sense of self-esteem and that they are likely to achieve their goals.

Respondents that are active in sports are more concerned with their appearance and feel more pressured (80%) to act a certain way or achieve than individuals who do not participation in sports.


The information acquired from the field confirms much of the information gathered from the research, which suggests that students participating in sports typically have a high sense of self-esteem and are more likely to achieve (Dunn, Gotwals & Wayment, 2003). The study did not examine whether the impacts of sports participation were more evident in males or females, however the majority of the respondents (90%) for purposes of this study were male. The results of the literature review suggest that sports participation is more likely to…[continue]

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