It is no secret in my house how much I LOVE the Olympics. I look forward to the games every two years. I’m not only in awe of the athletes’ abilities but also the determination and dedication they have committed to their dream for years. So many of the athletes’ stories embody the essence of the human spirit.
We generally think of sports as the great equalizer, relying on talent alone to see the best rise to the top. New research published in August 2021 indicates this isn’t really the case. The data suggests that attending a high school where 75% or more of the student population qualifies for free or reduced price lunch reduces a student’s chance in half of becoming a college athlete.1 Additionally, of the students followed in the study, only 9% of economically disadvantaged students played college sports, but 23% of higher socioeconomic students participated in collegiate athletics.2 What we typically believe to be the “way out” for economically disadvantaged students is more similar to academics and wealth than previously understood.
Just as Olympic athletes require funding to train, travel, and compete, our student athletes require funding to cover medical costs, pay entrance fees, and purchase personal sports equipment. Research compiled by Ohio University shows the average cost of participation is $126, with some paying over $200. Of the families with middle and high school students, 14% said the cost prevented their child from participating in school athletics.3
The long-term benefits of being a student athlete far outweigh the upfront costs. The same research shows 43% of male varsity athletes had greater success in upper management jobs and 67% of female athletes hold a high-level executive position.4 Just like Olympic athletes, student athletes gain leadership skills, self-confidence, and determination through sport.
As you enjoy the Winter Games this month and become inspired by the stories behind these incredible athletes, think of our own community’s students, and how great an impact your support can have on their future. And who knows, maybe one day one of our sparks will light the Olympic torch!
1,2 The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/why-some-college-sports-are-often-out-of-reach-for-students-from-low-income-families-167334 (11 February 2022)
3,4 The Ohio University, https://onlinemasters.ohio.edu/blog/cost-of-school-athletics-are-increasing/#:~:text=On%20average%2C%20participation%20fees%20cost,pay%20participation%20fees%20at%20all. (11 February 2022)