Role of Athletics in Higher Education


Athletics is a collective term used to refer to competition in different sporting events like walking, throwing, jumping and running. Competitions involved in athletics include race walking, road running, track field and cross-country. Athletic competitions are simple because they do not involve the use of expensive equipments. Athletics is among the world’s most competed sports because it is simple and less expensive compared to other sports (Chu, Segrave & Becker, 1985).

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Chu, Segrave and Becker (1985) point out that in the institutions of higher educations, sports is an important activity, which plays a major role to students and members of staff. Sports were included in the curriculum of higher education even during the last century. Initially, sports were mainly done for recreational purposes during physical education. Even today, sports plays the role of recreation among students and staff members in the higher education.

However, athletics plays other roles apart from being a recreational activity. Knowledge and theories acquired from academic disciplines like sociology, management, psychology, medicine, and biomechanics have led to development of undergraduate and postgraduate courses related to sports and sports science.

Role of athletics

Students who graduate with degrees in sports have a variety of career options to choose from ranging from working in local and government authorities, sports administration, commercial fitness and coaching. To develop the sports industry, students in higher education are specializing in sport related courses like sports law, sports journalism, sports engineering, and sports development. Studies have shown that sport related courses are flexible, coherent and multi-disciplinary.

Sport related degree courses act as an added advantage to students when seeking for jobs because they can be employed in different firms. Sports play the role of community, regional and national development strategies through improvement, and evaluation of public policies like health improvement plans (Chu, Segrave & Becker, 1985).

Duderstadt (2000) argues that inclusion of sports in higher education helps in growth and development of young people. According to General Douglas MacArthur, sports helps in building individuals character. He argues that through sports, the youth become the custodians in the country. Values like teamwork, leadership, integrity, dedication, and sacrifice learned during sports are activities attributed to building positive characteristics.

During sports, youths learn to socialize and interact with other people. Because they are working toward a common goal, athletes learn much from one another .During competitions, students have two expectations, they can be winners or losers. Losing is a major challenge to students, but it is important in the sense that it strengthens them in facing tougher challenges later in life by making them strong. Socialization learned during sports activities is important in child’s growth and development.

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Studies have shown that sports activities contribute to increase in academic performance among students. In addition, sports does not affect academic studies as many people tend to think. For example, in a study conducted in Yale University by Ryan Miller in 1997, 58% of the total athletes in the university were graduated with Division one in relation to 56% of the total of nonathletic. The results reflect clearly that sports does not affect academic work in any way.

Sports activities help students refresh their minds after hard and tedious class works during the day. Studies show that students understand better after they have had sports activities because their minds are fresh. Reading from morning to evening does not mean that everything is being absorbed in the brain. Higher education students are encouraged to set apart some time to engage in sports activities like athletics to refresh their minds and improve their level of understanding (Duderstadt, 2000).

Students’ participation in sports activities make them realize their talent. Individuals are born with different talent. In the course of sports activities some students realize that they can make good athletes. For some, sports become their major career, which earn them a living throughout the rest of life. For instance, athletic champions like Kiptanui, Eliud from Kenya, Horibata, Feyisa from Japan, Farah, Mo from Britain and Taylor Christian from the United States among other athletic heros earn much from sports, which has developed into a career. Students who specialize in courses related to sports, get employments from which they earn income. With the knowledge and skills acquired related sports, they can train other people into becoming successful participants in sports activities.

Rhoads and Gerking (2000) assert that students exercise their bodies through sports activities making them strong and healthy. Exercises are important in the maintenance of good health. The risks of contracting diseases like obesity, which are caused by lack of exercises, are reduced. Studies show that students who engage in co-curricular activities are health and strong, and they are not prone to disease attacks.

Sporting activities are very important not only to students and staff in the institutions of higher education learning but to all people. The role that sports activities play is important and cannot be overlooked. Students from primary schools all the way to the university should be encouraged to participate actively in sports activities. This will help them as they grow up and improve their academic work (Rhoads & Gerking, 2000).


Chu, D., Segrave, J. & Becker, B. (1985). Sport and higher education. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers Inc.

Duderstadt, J. (2000). Intercollegiate athletics and the American university. Ann Arbor, AA: The University of Michigan Press.

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Rhoads, T. & Gerking, S. (2000). Educational contributions, academic quality, and athletic success. Contemporary Economic Policy, 18, 248.

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