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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Smartest Kids on Campus: Athletes!

Female athletes, that is....

A discussion of athletics and student retention at South Dakota's universities led me to the Board of Regents' most recent Athletic Academic Report. Three years of data found that athletes do indeed stick around and finish academic programs at a better rate than non-athletes (see p. 2).

Athletes in South Dakota's Regental system also appear to be a little smarter than their less sporting counterparts. Table 13 of the report breaks down athlete GPAs by sport and school for AY2006–2007. Systemwide, the athlete GPA that year was 2.80. The non-athlete GPA: 2.69.

But some rough averaging (the table doesn't give numbers of participants in each sport, so my calculations are subject to revision) shows that the women are carrying the men to get the higher overall average. Across eleven sports, female athletes average a 3.12. Across ten sports, male athletes average 2.62. In every sport offered to both sexes, women outscore their male counterparts in the classroom (on average by 0.43 grade points, or 16%).

Some other data of interest:
  • The smartest athletes are SDSU's women's equestrian team (GPA 3.35). The next highest GPAs are in women's soccer (3.24) and women's outdoor track (3.20—running outside makes you tougher and smarter).
  • The... lowest scoring athletes are the men's swimmers (GPA 2.45... although USD is pulling down SDSU in this category). The next lowest GPAs are in football (2.47) and wrestling (2.48).
  • SDSU and USD are in a tight battle for smartest athletes overall. SDSU's overall athlete GPA is 2.98; USD's is 2.94. Mines isn't far back at 2.90.
  • The school with the lowest overall athlete GPA? Our own Dakota State at 2.51.
Now keep in mind that when this study says athletes, it means participants in the official competitive athletic programs, not all those kids who play intramurals or run or golf or play Ultimate Frisbee on their own. I'd like to think that my occasional running and biking help me perform better in the classroom by clearing my mind and getting my blood pumping. (There is evidence of a fitness–brains link in kids.)

Overall, our university athletes are academic leaders. But the ladies are the real role models, balancing athletics and the classroom and doing better in both. Let's pick up the slack, fellas!

1 comment:

  1. Kinda pokes holes in the whole "Dumb Jock" theory. Unlike some people, I happen to believe that ALL activities are beneficial to students and their intellectual/social/emotional development and that includes both Fine Arts AND Athletics!

    -From a former jock (wrestling and football) and geek (band, jazz band, chorus and drama)


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