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5 ways sport can help struggling students

5 ways sport can help struggling students

3 min read
  • The science of learning

How can schools best help their struggling students outside of the classroom? More and more research is emerging that highlights numerous ways playing sport may help struggling students.

So, here are 5 skills that sport can teach struggling students to help them develop…

Sport creates a support network and sense of belonging

Struggling students often feel isolated and as though they do not belong to the school community.

However, recent research has shown that sport could help stop these feelings, by giving individuals a support network who shares the same passions. These people can also offer advice about problems faced both in and outside the classroom.

For many, sport could offer a place of refuge to escape the constant pressure of school and to pursue interests. Furthermore, working together to achieve a common goal enhances sense of belonging, increasing self-image and self-esteem alongside improving grades.

Sport teaches goal setting

Goal setting is an important skill that could help struggling students. And it can be learnt through sport, as coaches and individuals collaborate to set targets to achieve within a given time frame, for themselves or the team.

These skills can then be transferred to setting educational goals.

However, goal setting does need to be carried out in a particular way, with performance goals rather than outcome goals in mind.

This stops students setting goals that they only have partial control over, which can cause a lack of motivation or feelings of anxiety.


Sport develops time management

As students get older, the ability to manage their time and not procrastinate during independent studybecomes increasingly important; this is a particular problem amongst struggling students.

Research has shown sport can improve student’s time management skills as it limits their free time. Therefore, they have to plan when homework and revision will be carried out, which makes it more likely for these tasks to be completed.

Students could even use sport as a reward for completing homework, or a certain number of hours of revision.

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Sport enhances mood

Research has shown that sport can improve mood, as it causes the release of endorphins, which trigger positive feelings.

One study, that asked people to rate their mood immediately after physical exercise or after a period of inactivity, found that those who engaged in physical exercise felt content, more awake, and calmer. It was also found that the effect of exercise was greatest when mood was initially low, a finding that highlights how important sport could be.

Sport improves concentration

Struggling students often find it difficult to concentrate in class, causing them to struggle more. Sport may help with this issue.

Research suggests that learning to perform sports skills requires concentration, and also helps develop it. The challenge then becomes to help students transfer this over into a classroom setting.

Final thought

Whilst helping our most struggling students is difficult and no easy fix can be offered, sport may be a way forward for some.

Sport can can help struggling students, offering a support network, teaching the importance of having clear strategies, and gives them a way to escape from the stresses and strains of everyday life.

Fostering the development of these skills may give struggling students the best chance of improving their experiences at school.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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