The Myth of the Dumb Jock October 5, 2017

Surely you have heard the stereotypes: nerds are smart, jocks are dumb, and the cool kids just don’t care. While pigeonholing students is becoming less pronounced, the misconception that athletes don’t achieve as much academically persists. New studies are finding that not only is the dumb jock stereotype not true, athletes actually tend to perform better academically than their uninvolved peers. Let’s dispel the dumb jock myth once and for all, and replace it with the idea that athletes are actually leading the way in both physical and mental performance.

Physical Exercise Helps the Brain

A recent article from Florida National University highlights several recent studies that have proven that physical exercise is good for the brain. MRI scans show that when sedentary individuals suddenly increase their physical activity the volume of their hippocampus and frontal and temporal lobes increases. These areas of the brain are connected to cognitive function, memory, and learning. Another study found that when adolescents increased their exercise, their exam performance increased as well. For boys, every extra 17 minutes they exercised showed increased performance in math, english, and science, and for girls 12 extra minutes showed an increase. Additionally, a CDC report saw that physical education had either a positive or neutral effect on academic achievement, with 11 out of 14 studies showing positive correlation. So, physical exercise is good for the brain, good for performance, and good for students. While this exercise doesn’t have to come from sports, athletic programs are a great way for kids to stay physically active and continually push themselves.

Kansas Athletes

While sports organizations had been saying for years that athletes made better students, Angela Lumpkin, who coached women’s basketball in the 1970s, set out to make a concrete case. She used data from the entire state of Kansas to measure high school student performance in relation to athletics. Her findings were persuasive in offering evidence that athletes were outperforming their peers in notable areas. The incidence of a GPA of 3.5 or higher was almost 20 percent higher in female athletes, and almost 10 percent higher in male athletes. The graduation rate of female athletes surpassed that of their non-athlete peers, and for boys it was a whopping 10 percent higher! So much for the idea that “dumb jocks” can only play sports—this data showed that they also were academically successful. Another notable statistic was that the attendance rate of athletes was higher for both girls and boys than their non-athlete peers, showing that the worries that athletics and sports will be too much for a young student are false. This data gave a tangible way to measure the success of athletes, and to calm fears that they wouldn’t be as academically successful as their peers.

NCAA GSR

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has worked hard to dispel the myth of the dumb jock. They use their own graduation success rate (GSR) to measure long-term academic success. According to the GSR, the percent of freshman Division 1 athletes who entered college in 2001 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree by 2007 was 79 percent—15 percent higher than the standard federal graduation rate. The GSR seeks to not penalize students who transfer to another school in good academic standing, and aims to look at the long term achievement of the student. Their findings indicate that, again, sports have a positive impact on students and should not be seen as academic hindrances.

Organization

Another common misconception is that sports will take up time that should be dedicated to academics, and as a result grades and performance will suffer. While sports definitely do take up time, they actually force a student to become more organized and use their time more efficiently. A rigorous game and training schedule teaches students to prioritize their schoolwork, and can often eliminate the last minute all-nighter. Consistent training can lead to consistent homework and study times, which can help students prepare for college and beyond. Self-discipline can help get rid of procrastination, and help with academic focus. Being organized and able to manage time effectively is extremely useful in every job that you could have and equip a young athlete with lifelong skills.

Mental Health

The high school and college years can be a challenging time for a young student, and when you add in all of the physical and social changes, as well as changes in responsibility, it is no wonder that so many youth struggle with their mental health. Stress, anxiety, and depression can all negatively affect school performance, and grades can suffer. Sports are a great outlet for giving the brain mood-boosting chemicals that can keep you happy and positively impact your school performance. Endorphins are released during exercise that can give you a positive outlook on life, and keep schoolwork feeling manageable. A happier, more motivated student will do better academically; just another reason that being a jock is a smart choice.

Employment

The final destination after years of schooling is to find a satisfying and sustaining job, and research by British Universities and Sport (BUCS) has shown that participation in sports is appealing to employers. Employers were more likely to prefer a candidate who had sports involvement on their resume, and saw sports as indicating a greater scope of skill than just academics alone. Far from being seen as someone who only can perform on the field, athletes are viewed as well-rounded individuals who have more to offer than just book-smarts.

Perception

A big reason to squash the dumb jock myth once and for all is impact it can have on the athlete through self-perception. looked at how this stereotype can become self-fulfilling in students that are athletes. Research revealed that when students viewed themselves as dumb, they were less likely to do well academically. A study done where the students were reminded of their jock association beforehand showed that they scored 12 percent lower than their peers on GRE-style tests. However, the times may be changing. A recent study from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh found that participants in the study who were student-athletes had significantly higher math test scores than the non-athletes. One explanation for this is that the backlash against this stereotype is actually helping athletes recognize and achieve higher academic achievements than their peers.

Get Smart

If you want to have all-around achievement, sports seem like a great complement to academics. Students who play sports are more motivated, higher-scoring, happier, and more likely to land the jobs they want. At Moneyball Sportswear, we want to encourage each child to reach their fullest potential, and work closely with the community to host camps that can introduce kids to basketball for the first time. Every parent wants to set their child up for success, and evidence shows time and again that the “dumb jocks” have actually become the smart athletes.  If your child has an affinity for sports, see this as a great way that they can learn to manage their time, have self-discipline, and reach their goals. If you are looking for the best custom team uniforms for your smart jock, look no further than Moneyball—we have the gear you need to be successful on the court, field, or rink!

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