How sport activities help improve educational attainment

Education in the 21st century increasingly recognizes the role of values and social skills in tackling global challenges, such as inactivity, obesity, unemployment, and conflict.

BySanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Updated 29 Apr 2023, 10:07 am

(Photo: IFP)
(Photo: IFP)


Education is a social institution through which children are taught basic academic knowledge, learning skills, and cultural norms. Education is an inseparable part of human life. Without it, human life is incomplete, painful, and hopeless. It stands for deliberate instruction or training.

The term education is derived from the Latin word ‘Educare’ which means to “bring up”.

Education in the 21st century increasingly recognizes the role of values and social skills in tackling global challenges, such as inactivity, obesity, unemployment, and conflict. This approach is at the core of the Sustainable Development Goal-4 on quality education, which advocates for inclusive lifelong learning opportunities and innovative content delivery.

Dynamic forms of values-based education using sport can be introduced in schools to support teachers deliver curricula actively and cooperatively.

Participation in sport improves children’s educational attainment and skills development including empowerment, leadership and self-esteem – contributing to their overall well-being and future prospects, according to new research released by the Barça Foundation and UNICEF.

“It’s long been understood that sport promotes children’s health and physical development, but now we have solid evidence to suggest that sport can have a powerful impact on their overall education and life skills development,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Charlotte Petri Gornitzka.


 “We must use this evidence to inspire investment in sports for children, especially the most vulnerable. Sport isn't just a good way to keep children's bodies healthy, but it also has psychological benefits and teaches them important life skills too. Organised sport has many psychological and social benefits for children – even more than the physical activity during play. Researchers think this is because children benefit from the social aspects of being in a team, and from the involvement of other children and adults. Sport can teach values such as fairness, teambuilding, equality, discipline, inclusion, perseverance and respect. Sport has the power to provide a universal framework for learning values, thus contributing to the development of soft skills needed for responsible citizenship”.

Values Education through Sport (VETS) programmes support active learning, complement cognitive skills and give students increasing amounts of responsibility, and enhance their level of concentration and participation. VETS programmes are flexible and have a strong cross-curricular potential: they can reinforce existing curricula and can be streamed across different subjects, including physical education, civic and moral education, nutrition, biology, arts. Ultimately, these programmes help students to transfer and put values into action outside the school environment, by getting engaged in their communities, making informed decisions, being sensitive and respecting the others and the environment. VETS contribute to the development of self-confidence, active and healthy lifestyle choices, and an understanding of rights, supporting the delicate transition to the independence of adulthood. 

 The benefits of participating in sports go beyond learning new physical skills. Sport helps children develop better ways to cope with the highs and lows of life. When they're playing sport, sometimes they will win, while at other times they will lose. Being a good loser takes maturity and practice. Losing teaches children to overcome disappointment, cope with unpleasant experiences and is an important part of becoming resilient.

Playing sport helps children learn to control their emotions and channel negative feelings in a healthy way. It also helps children develop patience and understand that it can take a lot of practice to improve their skills. Children can then apply skills like perseverance and resilience in other areas of their life, including in the classroom at school and with other non-sporting hobbies.

Playing in a team helps children develop many of the social skills they will need throughout life. It teaches them to cooperate, be less selfish, and to listen to other children. It also gives children a sense of belonging. It helps them make new friends and builds their social circle outside school. An important part of playing in a team is accepting discipline. Playing sport means children are expected to follow rules, accept decisions and understand that they could be penalised for bad behaviour. It teaches them to take directions from the coach, referees and other adults. Sport also teaches them about teamwork.

Physical activity has been shown to stimulate brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters) that make you feel better. Playing sport regularly improves children's overall emotional wellbeing. Research shows a link between playing sport and self-esteem in children. The support of the team, a kind word from a coach, or achieving their personal best will all help children feel more confident.

To keep your child interested and enjoying sport, try to make it a positive experience for them. Focus on having fun, giving it a try and being active, rather than winning or losing. You can help your child develop a positive sporting attitude by praising the team's or other children's efforts, even if they don't win. Point out to your child how important it is to try and do their best.

Make sure comments from the sidelines are positive, and don't criticise children who make mistakes. Never abuse a team, umpire or other player. Visit the Play by the Rules website for tips for parents on creating a positive sporting environment for your child. The Play by the Rules website also has many resources to promote awareness of poor sideline behaviour. These resources are part of Let Kids be Kids, a national campaign that addresses poor sideline behaviour in junior sport.


Besides being a vital way for one to stay active, sports are very important in the system of education. In some way, games benefit the participant to spend their time more effectively. Consequently, the individual becomes responsible, accountable, and disciplined. Sports improve the blood flow to the brain, and, therefore, more connections between the nerves appear. Then, this activity fosters the memory of the participant, which encourages the concentration of a person as well as their creativity. This merit explains why sports are essential in education, thus enlightening their relationship. In recap, playing active games contributes to the student’s brain development and helps the brain to cope with reading better.

One characteristic that is essential in education is the ability to face the challenges, and participating in sports improves that trait. Also, those involved in games are more likely to be active in the classroom as it ensures that one is prepared to deal with failures. Sports provide the chance to benefit from them. In terms of the educational process, they improve the learner’s creativity and thinking capacity. By integrating sports into their studying process, students increase the chances to learn new methods and gain knowledge in different areas of education. They increase the ability to apply their skills and expertise more creatively.

The past studies have shown that participating in light exercises in the morning is vital for one in accessing the knowledge base. Also, it helps the students to apply their skills related to organization and memory. Furthermore, the student’s active participation in sports enhances their positive cognitive development. In sports, youths can learn different ways to use the core parts of the brain to think creatively, recall the things they need, and even solve problems amicably.

Once the brain functions are improved due to the increased blood flow, one will get enormous benefits. These advantages are associated with the development of brain growth factors that help in creating new cells, thus supporting the ability to learn.

Participation in sport activities has significant positive effects on educational attainment. This is in line with theoretical considerations about allocation of time and educational productivity. It is evident that the effect is generally larger for women than for men, especially if they participate in competitions.

The positive effects of sport activities should encourage politics to strengthen sport activities in school and out of school. Moreover, parents should be aware of these positive effects, i.e., they should encourage their children to get involved in sports. It seems especially beneficial for girls to participate in sports because it strengthens their position in competing with boys in classroom and probably also their position in male dominated societies and work surroundings.

(The views expressed are personal)


First published:



Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Assistant Professor, JCRE Global College, Babupara, Imphal. The writer can be reached at sjugeshwor7@gmail.com


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