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  • Writer's pictureDeb Rooney

Playing Sports + Reading = Better Thinking Skills

Updated: Sep 25, 2023


In a recent study, researchers found that, “children who spent more time playing on supervised organized sports teams and reading had better thinking skills than those who did not.”


This two-year study presents interesting findings regarding the combination of sports and academics. Having worked with student-athletes for decades, I have seen firsthand the incredible thinking skills these individuals possess.


Student-athletes spend hours playing a sport they love. This passion propels them to practice specific skills, recognize the importance of repetition, watch videos to master their craft, and read countless articles and books to improve their athletic performance. The skills associated with these practices become ingrained in these student-athletes. However, what these individuals do not realize is, that while they are improving their athletic performance in the sport they love, they are unknowingly developing and perfecting critical skills applicable to their academic performance.


Every time student-athletes step onto the athletic field or sheet of ice, they make inferences about their opponent and draw conclusions, allowing them to immediately act as soon as a referee blows the whistle. At the same time, they have to communicate with their teammates to execute a plan or to grab their coach’s attention to seek guidance. The effectiveness of these techniques are immediately known and determines the next course of action. Student athletes’ thinking and communication skills occur within minutes or even seconds of one another priming students’ brains to utilize these same skills in other areas, notably the classroom.


Knowing the positive byproducts of playing a sport, I help my student-athletes recognize the incredible skills they have acquired through years of hard work and determination, skills they naturally perfected. I bridge their two worlds, by identifying key moments in their athletic career when they demonstrated higher-order thinking skills and help them apply this same skill set to their reading comprehension or other academic tasks. Students are always struck by this connection and as a result become empowered and more confident, ultimately transferring these valuable higher-order thinking skills to their academics consistently.


Regardless of the number of student-athletes I have the opportunity to work with, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the excitement in their eyes when they are told all of the amazing qualities they naturally possess!




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