Do Former High School Athletes Make Better Employees than Non-Athletes?

Kevin Kniffin, Brian Wansink, and Mitsuru Shimizu (2014). Sports at Work: Anticipated and Persistent Correlates of Participation in High School Athletics. Journal of Leadership and Organization Studies,22(2) 217–230. doi: 10.1177/1548051814538099

kevin kniffin, brian wansink, mitsuru shimizu, food and brand lab, cornell university, sports at work, citizen sportsmen, varsity athletics

Kevin Kniffin, PhD Research Associate,

Cornell University

Former high school athletes are expected to display more leadership, self-confidence, and self-respect in the workplace than those who participated in other extracurricular activities, according to new Cornell University research published in the Journal of Leadership & Organization Studies. The findings also indicate that about 60 years later, former athletes are more likely to have volunteered their time and made donations than people who didn’t play a varsity sport in high school. “These findings are encouraging because they show evidence of long term, positive, personal and societal benefits of high school sports,” said lead-author Kevin Kniffin, PhD.

With his colleagues Brian Wansink, PhD, and Mitsuru Shimizu, PhD, Kniffin conducted two studies designed to explore the links between high school athletics and pro-social, community oriented behaviors. First they surveyed 66 employed adults to ask how much they agreed with statements about the character of those who played sports in high school as well as those who did other activities like the marching band or yearbook club. The findings showed that those surveyed believed that former high school athletes are expected to be more self-confident, self-respecting leaders.

The second study looked at a survey of 931 men who graduated high school about 60 years prior to taking the survey. These men answered questions about their professional successes and contributions to their communities. The researchers found that those who had played high school sports were more likely to volunteer their time and donate to organizations such as Girl Scouts, the United Way and the Red Cross.

These findings underscore the importance of maintaining high school sports programs. “What is particularly important to note about this research,” according to Dr. Kniffin “is that it shows that positive traits associated with playing sports can impact individuals and communities for decades!”

Article Summary by Katherine Baildon