Playing sports stimulates academic performance of children and youngsters when they find a coach that teaches them something more than kicking or catching a ball. Fundación Marcet, a foundation in Spain created by famous football player of the sixties, Javier Marcet, claims that sport practice contributes to the transmission of certain virtues and values. Effort, discipline, sacrifice, a self-improvement spirit, comradeship, generosity, respect, honesty and humbleness to acknowledge one’s own mistakes contribute to shape the character and personality of kids.

Most American universities and many human resources departments find more information from the candidates they interview in their hobbies, their sports activities and their community service than in their academic record. Since Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Columbia give candidates’ academic excellence for granted, sometimes they look into these details as indicators that make a difference.

In most admission forms, they ask the candidate to describe their extra-curricular experience in the previous years. To go into Stanford, they are asked to write about their sports, volunteering and work activities. Furthermore, they must complete a 500-word essay on an experience, an achievement or a risk that they underwent, or an ethical dilemma they have faced and which has had a significant impact in their life. He or she can also develop a relevant local, national, international or personal issue that concerns him or her, or to describe a person who has had an influence on his or her life.

At the Complutense University of Madrid, one of the largest, oldest and most prestigious Spanish universities, a Emeritus professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication keeps more than 20.000 cards of his students during his more than 30-year teaching experience. He wouldn’t grade a final exam if the student hadn’t presented enough assignments and gone to his office for a personal interview, where he asked them questions related to their hobbies, their aspirations and their background to get to know them better and to know what to expect and demand in their personal circumstances. Used as they were to having nobody asking them what they thought, many of them were stunned when this professor listened to them and called them by their name.

In many universities and job interviews, recruiters take into consideration candidates’ sports activities, especially those which involve a team because they shape character with virtues such as solidarity, generosity and team work. The reading, the improvement of studying techniques and the ability to memorize dates and information don’t play the same role as sports do when it comes to learning how to win and to lose, or to interact with people from different origins and social classes who ofteh have other political and social ideas.

They also value volunteering and community service. People who are capable of accepting others as a result of accepting themselves as they are tolerate frustration  better and show more empathy and a greater capacity for team work than other people.

Many parents become obsessed with their kids’ grades and instill them with a competitiveness that turns them into individualistic beings with problems when it comes to sharing. They limit their extra-curricular activities as a result of the extended belief that they damage academic performance, which they consider vital for their youngsters’ professional future. Pedro Marcet, the son of the renown football player and the educational director of the Foundation, argues in the opposite direction: students who practice Sports with the guide of a good coach-educator get higher grades than their classmates.

Different institutions that study the benefits of sport activities inSpain, such as the Behaviour Studies Observatory in Spain, as well as the University of Vrije (Holland), confirm this thesis. Sports stimulate cognitive capacities of children; they increase their endorphin levels and the interconnectivity of their neurones. Furthermore, they contribute in the fight against a sedentary lifestyle that provokes obesity, cardiovascular problems that affect more and more youngsters each time.

To avoid the obsession of having at home “the smartest kid in class”, it’s convenient to remember that educere means to “conduct”, to obtain the best each person has to offer. With the right professors, youth sports contribute in that way without getting yet the social recognition and acknowledgement that so many coaches and educators deserve.

Carlos Miguélez
Journalist, editor at the Centro de Colaboraciones Solidarias (Spain)

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