Sorting by


According to the Department of Health, more than 3.6 million children take part in sport each year. Sports, particularly team sports, are thought to teach a variety of life skills for kids: working with others to achieve a goal, perseverance, humility and communication. There’s a strong culture of sport and physical activity in Australia –  whether it’s chasing the ball at lunchtime or kicking, hitting, or throwing one at the weekend. But is there a connection between sports involvement and academic achievement? That’s what researchers from the University of Sydney set out to discover in a recent study.

Researchers used data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children – which follows 10,000 children and their families, beginning in 2003 and has tracked the children into adulthood. It captures a range of data points, including health, physical activity, sport and educational outcomes. One cohort was analysed – about 4,200 kids who were followed from ages four-five to 20-21. Researchers looked at their sport participation, whether it was a team or individual sport (assessed by self-reporting), and educational outcomes such as school absenteeism, attention, working memory, school academic performance and university enrolment. The results were adjusted for factors such as sex, maternal education, socioeconomic status and remoteness.

Researchers found that continuing to participate in sport through a child’s school years had several positive associations. Kids who played sport consistently performed better on memory and attention tasks and had higher numeracy and literacy scores, as well as lower absenteeism. Children weren’t more likely to receive the Higher School Certificate if they played sports, but they did have higher academic performance overall and were also more likely to go on to university. There were slight differences in the results between individual and team sports, but broadly both trended towards having a positive effect on educational outcomes.

Of special note was that sporting activity helped kids in low socio-economic areas to do better in school, but fewer kids from these areas have access to sports. The authors suggest there’s a double benefit from increasing participation in those areas, as well as more broadly across Australia, both to reduce physical inactivity and potentially boost levels of academic achievement.


Further information

Sport Participation for Academic Success: Evidence From the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children Journal of Physical Activity and Health

Contact Us