Effects of Early Sport Participation on Self-esteem and Happiness
Dr. Nandini Mathur Collins
Dr. Fred Cromartie
Dr. Stephen Butler
Dr. John Bae
Dr. Nandini Mathur Collins
59 Joyce Lane
Wayne, NJ 07470
Dr. Nandini Mathur Collins is an Adjunct Professor at William Paterson University and Southern New Hampshire University and she is also an alumni of the United States Sports Academy.
Effects of Early Sport Participation on Self-esteem and Happiness
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between self-esteem and happiness with participation in sports prior to college. Spearman’s Rank Correlation and Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) revealed that of the 514 college students surveyed, those who participated in sports prior to college reported higher self-esteem and happiness than non-sport participants. Data were collected in the spring and summer 2017 semesters using survey questionnaires which included the Rosenberg Self-esteem scale, the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS), and demographic questions. This study found that a lifetime of sport participation beginning in youth and adolescence improved physical and psychological well-being of individuals as they enter young adulthood.
Keywords: sport participation, early sport participation, youth and adolescent sport participation, athletic participation, self-esteem, happiness, depression, subjective well-being
The rise in adolescent and adult obesity has been well documented in literature as a widespread epidemic over the last two decades. According to the World Health Organization (36), globally, around 31% of adults aged 51 and older were not sufficiently active in 2008. Approximately 3.2 million deaths occur each year that are attributable to insufficient physical activity. These staggering statistics are most concerning since physical activity significantly declines through childhood and adolescence (12). Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health issues of the 21st century (35). The positive influence of sports and physical activity are widely recognized as directly combatting and preventing obesity and its related health issues (12). Specifically, a lack of sports and physical activity has been linked to increasing physical and psychological ailments such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low self-esteem, and poor mental health including anxiety and depression (2) which tend to surface in adolescence and worsen throughout one’s life.
According to Bailey (1), participants in physical education and sports experience several benefits. For instance, Talbot (30) asserted that involvement in sports can help children develop respect for their body as well as respect for others. He also stated that sport participation contributes to positive development of mind and body leading to higher self-confidence, and self-esteem (30). Adolescence is a transitional period, which can be challenging for boys and girls and as a result they may suffer low self-esteem; especially in terms of physical appearance, athletic competence, and academic competence (15). Physical self-esteem, or physical self-concept in particular is greatly affected during adolescence, when bodies are rapidly changing physically and hormonally (4). By instilling lifetime skills through precollege sport participation, perhaps some of the negative effects one experiences in college, such as low self-esteem and depression, can be negated. In recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (2005-2010), 34.6% of adults over 20 years old were obese and 7.2% had depression, based on symptoms over the two weeks prior to the survey (22). According to the Office of Applied Studies, reports of major depressive episodes in youth ages 12-17 have increased (27); and according to Pratt and Brody (22), participation in sport helps to promote psychological benefits by reducing anxiety and depression. Research on the outcomes of early sport participation has been in favor of sport experiences for individuals of all ages. Existing research associates sports participation with higher self-esteem (4, 5, 6, 18, 20, 21, 24, 28, 31, and 33), and happiness (3, 10, 11, 13, 16, 19, 26, 32, and 34).
Literature supports a positive association between sport participation and an increase in self-esteem. Much of the research has focused on adolescents and their Perceived Sport Competence (PSC). Wagnsson et al. (33), Pedersen and Seidman (20), Slutsky and Simpkins (28), and Daniels and Leaper (6) all used a longitudinal design to examine adolescents and children and the possible link between sport participation and self-esteem. Wagnsson et al. (33) found that perceived sport competence was responsible for increased feelings of self-esteem. Noteworthy, is that self-esteem was found to be highest in the youngest group and early adolescence, declines through middle adolescence and slightly recovers in late adolescence (33). Similarly, results from Pedersen and Seidman (20) indicated that global self-esteem increased over time (20). Slutsky and Simpkins (28) also showed that those who participated in team sports rather than individual sports reported higher sport self-concept. Those with higher sport self-concept had higher self-esteem. Comparably, Daniels and Leaper (6) indicated that peer acceptance has a mediating role in the sport participation global self-esteem relationship in both boys and girls. Bowker (4), Perry-Burney and Takyi (21), and Taylor and Turek (31) also examined the relationship between adolescent sport participation and self-esteem, and the possible mediating role of physical self-esteem, which is similar to sport self-concept. Bowker’s (4) results indicated that sports participation was positively associated with physical competence, physical appearance, physical self-esteem, and general self-esteem in the sample. In general, Bowker (4) found that sports participation had a strong positive effect on self-esteem, most significantly for physical self-esteem. Similarly, results from Perry-Burney and Takyi (21) indicated that most girls (90%) reported that team sports had a positive impact on their self-esteem. Taylor and Turek’s (31) general findings support that sport participation predicted higher self-esteem in those who also experienced positive associations from the underlying elements of social acceptance and social competence.
Previous studies conducted on college students have also linked sport participation with higher self-esteem (5, 24). One such study that addressed college self-esteem as it relates to precollege sports participation was conducted by Richman and Shaffer (24). Richman and Shaffer (24) revealed that of the 220 college females examined, earlier participation in sports was positively correlated with the intervening variables and self-esteem. Similarly, Chen et al. (5) conducted a study on college students to see if there was an association with sports participation and positive self-esteem through the mediating variables of perceived peer acceptance and sport self-concept. Findings indicated that sport participation was positively correlated with peer acceptance and sport self-concept. Sport self-concept and peer acceptance were found to act as mediators between sport participation and self-esteem (5). Mitrovic et al. (18) examined anxiety versus self-esteem in student athletes and found that there is a negative correlation between state anxiety and global and specific self-esteem.
Diener (9) suggested that self-esteem is closely aligned to happiness. The higher the self-esteem, the higher the level of happiness, or subjective well-being. Previous studies have linked sport participation to an individual’s overall sense of well-being, or happiness. Aside from the physiological benefits, participation in sports can help promote psychological benefits which may lead to happiness and increased success. Many researchers studied this relationship longitudinally and used adolescents as subjects. Examples of such studies were done by Jewitt et al. (16), Booker et al. (3), Varca et al. (32), Downward and Rasciute (11), and Rasciute and Downward (23). In order to understand how early sport involvement can affect adolescents’ happiness as they become adults, Jewitt et al. (16) longitudinally examined the relationship between sport participation and mental health. These researchers determined that depressive symptoms were positively associated with perceived stress and negatively with mental health. The authors indicated that school sport participation can enhance self-esteem, mastery, emotional well-being, self-concept, and quality of life; all leading to better mental health (16).
Since adolescence is a crucial time in which to instill lifelong healthy behaviors, research suggests that the benefits of participating in physical activity in adolescence will positively impact adult physical and mental health. Conversely, those who do not engage in physical activity throughout their life, are at increased risk of physical and mental illness as one ages. Booker et al. (3) explored this relationship more in depth by focusing on sedentary individuals specifically in terms of screen-based media (SBM) usage. Results from this study indicated that heavy SBM usage was associated with being less happy and having emotional issues. Similarly, Varca et al. (32) conducted a longitudinal study on men and women to understand the impact of their adolescent sport participation on their life satisfaction, or happiness, as adults. A significant positive correlation was found between adolescent sport participation and adolescent life satisfaction. In addition, there was a positive and significant correlation between adolescent, adult sport experience, and adult life satisfaction.
Downward and Rasciute (11) conducted a large-scale, longitudinal study to examine the effect of sport participation on happiness. Their results showed that sports have a significant association with happiness in that the social interaction gained through sports was found to increase one’s happiness. Downward and Rasciute (11) suggested that sport participation is important and encouraged for the general population in order to improve not only health but increase happiness. Further, Rasciute and Downward (23) took data from a previously conducted longitudinal study on participants ages 16 and up, which explored possible connections between sport participation and physical activity and health and well-being. It was found that physical activity through sport participation had a statistically significant positive impact on health and happiness.
The most often reported mental and physical problems are anxiety, depression, stress, and low self-esteem. Donaldson and Ronan (10) studied adolescents and their self-reported perceptions of sport involvement. Significant findings from this study included those who reported more participation in sports also reported enhanced emotional and behavioral well-being. Gisladottir et al. (13) also surveyed adolescents (14-16 years old) to examine the effects of sport participation on mental and physical health. Results indicated that those who were more involved with sports clubs had better body image, and had a higher self-perception of mental and physical health. Most importantly, those who participated in sports clubs indicated that they will go on to live a good life and be happy. Ruseski et al. (26) studied a causal link between sport participation and happiness. They found that participants in Rheinberg, Germany who participated in sports were happier than those that did not participate in sports. Webb and Forrester (34) examined college students’ perceptions of the impact of sport participation on their happiness and found that students who continued sport through college and later in life through intramural sports experience a more positive affect. Pawlowski et al. (19) examined the age-specific impact of physical activity on subjective well-being (SWB). Researchers found that in general sport participation contributes to a person’s SWB with age-specific differences. Specifically, being generally physically active contributed more to SWB as the individual gets older.
Taken together, the results indicated that early sport participation plays an important role in adolescent happiness and self-esteem, through mediating variables of sport self-concept and peer acceptance. It can be assumed from the reviewed literature that early sport participation has a positive effect on self-esteem and happiness. As most literature examined adolescents, research on pre-college sports participation and its subsequent effect on college students remains scarce. The current study aimed to provide additional evidence of the effects of sport participation on self-esteem and happiness. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine if there is a significant relationship among precollege sports participation, self-esteem and happiness. The second purpose was to determine if there are statistically significant differences in self-esteem and happiness among college students with precollege sports participation and students without precollege sports participation. Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (17) and Diener’s Satisfaction with Life frameworks (7), this study used a quantitative survey questionnaire method to examine self-reported self-esteem and happiness in college students. Self-esteem was defined by Maslow as one of humans’ innate needs (17). Self-esteem was also defined by Rosenberg, who described it as a favorable or unfavorable attitude toward the self (29). Diener (7, 9) equated happiness with life satisfaction, or the overall satisfaction enjoyed in life. Diener described happiness as Subjective Well-Being (SWB), as it can be measured. SWB includes the various types of evaluation of one’s life one might make, including self-esteem, joy, and feelings of fulfillment (7).
Subjects included students from a university in the northeastern United States. Participants were male and female undergraduate students, with and without prior sport experience. They completed the survey tool electronically via online survey software called SurveyMonkey or in-person via pencil and paper. The researcher administered paper surveys in classes, after coordinating with faculty members. Undergraduate students in some departments received the online survey link. In both versions of the survey, a cover letter contained an informed consent, explained the current study in detail, described that participation was voluntary, and included researcher’s contact information. The final number of subjects surveyed in this study was 514.
Instrumentation and Procedures
The instrument used to collect data was an anonymous, self-administered online or paper survey consisting of the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale (RSES) (25), SWLS (9), and student’s demographic information. The survey was designed to take less than five minutes to complete in order to prevent subjects from losing interest during the time they were working on the survey. The RSES is widely recognized as a valid and reliable measurement of self-esteem, as is the SWLS, which is regarded highly as a measure of an individual’s happiness. Demographic information included, grade point average (GPA), age, gender, ethnicity, college level and status, current household income, and parents’ highest education level. Finally, an item asked participants to answer yes or no to pre-college participation in formal, organized individual or team sports. After data were collected via survey method, online responses were captured in SurveyMonkey from those subjects who consented to participate. A Cronbach’s alpha for reliability was conducted for each factor. The Cronbach’s alpha coefficients for SWLS (.89) and RSES (.82) indicated satisfactory levels of reliability for both scales.
This study’s independent variables were early (pre-college) sport experience, and the dependent variables were self-esteem, happiness, and GPA. Sport experience was measured in the demographic section of the survey using the item for self-reported participation in sport. Dependent variables (DV’s) were measured using separate sections for the RSES, SWLS, and GPA within the demographics section. Data were analyzed by applying Spearman’s Rank Correlation and ANOVA.
As seen in Table 1, the majority of the participants were female (n = 284, 55.3%) and about half were White (n = 241, 49.6%). The largest percentage of subjects were 23 years of age and older (n = 147, 28.6%) and had a household income of $50,000-$75,000 (n = 141, 28.8%). Over 40% of parents had a college degree (n = 219, 44.8%). The largest percentage of students were seniors (n = 203, 41.4%) and most students were full-time (n = 453, 92.6%). The majority of students had sport experience prior to college (n = 365, 74.5%). Data analyses were included for completed (n=514) surveys as well as incomplete surveys, as some subjects preferred not to answer certain items on the survey as seen in Table 1.
Table 2 shows the mean, standard deviation, minimum, and maximum for the dependent variables. SWLS scores ranged from 5.00 to 35.00 with a mean of 19.91 (SD = 7.92); five SWLS items were summed to arrive at a total score for each participant. RSES scores ranged from 13.00 to 41.00 with a mean of 27.22 (SD = 5.69); 10 RSES items were summed to arrive at a total score for each participant.
Screening for Outliers
Univariate outliers were detected by first standardizing the variables. Cases whose standardized values fell above the absolute value of 3.29 were deemed to be univariate outliers (29). As seen in Table 4, there were no outliers for the dependent variables.
Screening for Normality
Tabachnick and Fidell (29) stated that z-skew coefficients exceeding the critical value of ±3.29 may indicate non-normality. To test if the distribution for SWLS was significantly skewed, the skew coefficient of 0.15 was divided by the skew standard error of 0.11 resulting in a z-skew coefficient of 1.36. The SWLS variable was not significantly skewed (See Table 5 and Figure 1).
To test if the distribution for RSES was significantly skewed, the skew coefficient of 0.51 was divided by the skew standard error of 0.11 resulting in a z-skew coefficient of 4.63 (see Table 5 and Figure 2). This variable exceeded the critical value and the assumption of normality was not met. As a result, a square root transformation was used to address skewness with this variable. With this transformation, the critical value and the assumption of normality were finally met. The square root transformed skew coefficient of 0.33 was divided by the skew standard error of 0.11 resulting in a z-skew coefficient of 3.00. This transformed variable for RSES was used in the analysis as appropriate.
Data analyses included Spearman correlations and ANOVA. A Bonferonni adjustment was used to lower the threshold of statistical significance to .017. A Spearman’s correlation was applied to assess the degree of association between self-esteem and precollege sports participation (see Table 6). The correlation between self-esteem and precollege sports participation was statistically significant (r = .23, p = .001); as a result, sport participation was associated with an increase in self-esteem.
Next, an ANOVA was used to determine if there were statistically significant differences in RSES scores by prior sports participation (yes or no). Levene’s test was used to determine homogeneity of variance and the null hypothesis that the population variances are equal. A Levene’s p value that is less than .05 indicates homogeneity of variances has not been achieved. Levene’s test of equality of error variances was statistically significant (F(1,488) = 24.76, p = .001), indicating this assumption of normality was violated. Levene’s test is not necessarily very robust itself against violations of the homogeneity of variances assumption; Glass and Hopkins (14) referred to Levene’s test as “fatally flawed” (p. 436). In addition, in the case of unequal sample sizes per group, Levene’s test is itself not very robust (14). Because of this violation, the Welch test was also calculated as part of the ANOVA.
Table 7 shows the descriptive statistics for RSES score by prior sports participation. As seen in Table 8, there was a statistically significant difference in average RSES score by prior sports participation, F(1, 488) = 30.94, p = .001. In addition, the Welch statistic was statistically significant, Welch (1, 264.62) = 38.19, p = .001. Students with prior sports participation had a higher RSES score (M = 28.19, SD = 5.88) than students with no prior sports participation (M = 24.96, SD = 4.73). The mean RSES score for each student group is plotted in Figure 3.
A Spearman’s correlation was used to assess the degree of association between SWLS and precollege sports participation (see Table 9). The correlation between happiness and precollege sports participation was not statistically significant (r = .03, p = .43). Next, an ANOVA was used to determine if there were statistically significant differences in SWLS scores by prior sports participation (yes or no). Levene’s test was used to determine homogeneity of variance and the null hypothesis that the population variances are equal. Levene’s test of equality of error variances was not statistically significant (F(1,488) = 0.25, p = .61), indicating this assumption of normality was not violated.
Table 10 shows the descriptive statistics for SWLS score by prior sports participation. As seen in Table 11, there was no statistically significant difference in average SWLS score by prior sports participation, F(1, 488) = 0.52, p = .46. Students with prior sports participation had a similar SWLS score (M = 20.33, SD = 7.82) when compared to students with no prior sports participation (M = 19.74, SD = 8.11). The mean score for each student group is plotted in Figure 4.
The purpose of this study was to determine if there is a significant relationship among precollege sports participation, self-esteem, and happiness. The second purpose was to determine if there are statistically significant differences in self-esteem and happiness among college students with precollege sports participation and students without precollege sports participation. Research indicates that sports and physical activity directly affect individuals’ health physically, emotionally, and mentally. Thus, it is critical to promote sports and physical activity throughout one’s lifetime. Self-esteem and happiness were examined in this study to determine college students’ prior sport experience and their possible association with these factors.
A statistically significant correlation was found in self-esteem in those who participated in sports prior to college and those that did not. In other words, undergraduate students who indicated having prior sport experience also indicated having higher levels of self-reported self-esteem. No significant difference was found for happiness in those who participated in sports prior to college. Specifically, those who reported having pre-college sport experience did report higher levels of self-reported happiness than those without prior sport experience, although it was not statistically significant. In general, results from this study were consistent with existing literature.
The main goal of the present study was to examine if there was a difference in self-reported measures of self-esteem and happiness between those who participated in sports prior to college and those who did not. The researcher predicted that both factors would be higher in subjects who reported sport participation as compared to those who indicated no sport participation. The target population was undergraduate college students attending a four-year college.
The study revealed that subjects who participated in sport prior to college reported higher levels of self-esteem and happiness, lending support to previous studies on all different age groups. Current literature indicates positive associations between self-esteem and sport experience, and the findings of this study are similar (4, 5, 6, 18, 20, 21, 24, 28, 31, and 33). Wagnsson, et al. (33) and Richmand and Shaffer (24) found that self-esteem was higher in those who participated in sports via perceived sport competence. These studies targeted adolescents and college females respectively. Specifically, if one felt accomplished and competent in sport, then his or her self-esteem was higher, and if competence in sport was not achieved, then self-esteem was lower. The current study did not measure perceived sport competence, yet participants reported higher self-esteem than non-sport participants. Perhaps age was a factor since Wagnsson, et al. (33) found that self-esteem fluctuated throughout adolescence, and was highest in late adolescence. The current study is consistent since subjects were closest in age to late adolescence. Further, results from this study are consistent with research done by Taylor and Turek (31) on high school students. They also found that feelings of sport competence were an indicator of higher self-esteem in sport participants. Sport participation was positively associated with higher self-esteem.
The current study lends further support to research conducted by Chen et al., (5), Pederson and Seidman (20), Slutzky and Simpkins (28), and Bowker (4), who all found that peer acceptance and positive sport self-concept acted as mediators between sport participation and self-esteem. Specifically, these previous studies found that those who participated in sport also reported higher self-esteem, as long as it was a positive experience in terms of sport self-concept. Slutzky and Simpkins (28) further indicated that it was team sports in particular rather than individual sports that lead to higher self-esteem. While the previous studies focused on adolescents, and the current study on college students, general findings support that those who participated in sports had higher self-esteem.
Results from the current study provide further support for previous research from Perry-Burney and Takyi (21), who studied adolescent girls and their self-esteem and sport involvement. Both studies found that those who participated in sports, also reported higher self-esteem. Perry-Burney and Takyi (21) further indicated that higher self-confidence and moral development were mediators of self-esteem and these were achieved via team sports, parent involvement, and religious affiliations. Rather than the mediators already mentioned, Daniels and Leaper (6) studied peer acceptance as a mediator between self-esteem and sport participation. Again, the current study’s findings are consistent with results from Daniels and Leaper (6) in that sport participants reported higher self-esteem with peer acceptance acting as the mediator. Mitrovic et al. (18) studied anxiety levels and self-esteem, positing that sport participation reduced anxiety and increased self-esteem. They found a negative association between anxiety and self-esteem, through sport participation. Results from the current study lend support to these findings and strengthen the notion that sport experience is associated with higher self-esteem.
Sport competence, age, peer acceptance, and team versus individual sport were not analyzed as mediators in the current study, and should be addressed in future studies for more direct comparisons. Nonetheless, regardless of what specific mediator is addressed, sport participation has consistently been found to be positively associated with higher self-esteem in adolescents and young adults.
Since happiness and self-esteem are closely linked (8), it is not surprising that happiness was also higher in sport subjects, further supporting previous research. Existing literature indicates positive associations between sport experience and happiness (3, 10, 11, 13, 16, 19, 26, 32, and 34).
The findings from this study are most similar to the findings from Varca et al. (33) and Webb and Forrester (34). While Varca et al. (33) studied adolescents longitudinally and the current study used a cross-sectional design, both studies examined pre-college sport participation and life satisfaction in young adults. Both studies found a positive correlation between sport participation and life satisfaction. Varca et al. (33) further indicated that the correlation was more significant for males than females and life satisfaction was more pronounced in adolescence. Webb and Forrester (34) also examined college students’ perceptions of the impact of sports participation on their happiness. Their findings indicated that students who continued sport participation reported experiencing significantly more positive affect, or happiness, than negative affect.
Similarly, the results from this study are congruent with the findings from Jewitt et al. (16) who found that teens who consistently participated in sports reported less depressive symptoms and stress over the next 5 years that they were studied. While Jewitt et al. (16) specifically studied mental health, depressive symptoms, and perceived stress and the current study measured subjective well-being, both studies indicate that those who participated in sport prior to college report better mental health and happiness. Downward and Rasciute (11) also found that sport participation has a significant correlation with happiness like the current study. These researchers also studied adolescents on a large scale and reported that participation in sport can increase the happiness of the population. In addition to increasing happiness, Downward and Rasciute (11) also found that there was a monetary implication to increased happiness and that it can improve the economy. In an earlier cross-sectional study on adolescents, Rascuite and Downward (23), found that physical activity through sport participation had a statistically significant impact on health and happiness, again aligning with the results from the current research.
The current study’s results are also consistent with findings from Ruseski et al. (26) who studied children and their parents and measured their happiness compared with their sport experience. Like the current study, Ruseski et al. (26) found that the subjects who participated in sports were happier than those who did not participate in sports. Unlike the current study and previous studies, Ruseski’s (26) study controlled for age, gender, income, education, employment status, and family life. Controlling for these confounding factors lends more credibility to the results, eliminating the cause of happiness as any of these other factors.
Similar to the current study, Booker et al. (3) conducted a cross-sectional study on 4,899 adolescents and measured their happiness and sport participation. These researchers sought to understand screen-based media (SBM) usage, sport participation, and well-being, or happiness in sedentary individuals. Subjects were asked questions about social media usage, gaming, and watching television, assuming that is how most adolescents spend most of their time. They were also given a six-item questionnaire to determine their happiness. Results from Booker et al. (3) indicated that higher participation in sports is associated with higher odds of happiness, which is consistent with results from the current study. In addition, these researchers found that higher SBM usage was associated with socioeconomic difficulties and lower odds of happiness.
In studies conducted by Donaldson and Ronan (10) and Gisladottir et al. (13), children’s (ages 11-13) and adolescents’ (ages 14-16) sport participation, mental and psychological health well-being, and behavioral problems were measured. While the subjects were younger than those in the current study, results are nonetheless similar. Donaldson and Ronan (10) reported that those who reported more participation in sports also reported enhanced emotional well-being. Gisladottir et al. (13) also found that those who participated in sports had a better body image and higher self-perceptions of mental and physical health. Further, subjects reported that they would go on to live a good life and be happy. Results from both studies further corroborate the results from the current study and indicate that early sport participation can improve happiness at any age.
Like the current study, Pawlowski et al. (19) contributed to the growing body of literature that indicates sport participation increases happiness. These researchers examined the age-specific impact of sport participation on subjective well-being. Unlike the current study, this research controlled for any indirect variables that may affect happiness. Results are in agreement with the current study that sport participation contributed to more subjective well-being, or happiness, and was more so in older adults.
There are limitations of the findings. Certainly, other factors may have played a role in the reported outcomes for students affecting the results either positively or negatively, depending on the life event, and any correlations found may be due to other people, situations, or experiences. Some of these may include personal, social, and family issues and relationships, financial situations, home, work, or school balance, recent traumatic or pleasing events on one’s life, and sickness. This study is limited in that it is out of the scope to account for all confounding variables. Specifically, perhaps parents’ education level and/or income level also affected one’s access to and ability to participate in sport as well as one’s reported outcomes. Also, gender differences, age, sport culture they grew up in, and perhaps their program of study may have had a role in the outcomes.
The results may not be generalizable beyond the undergraduate population of the one university that was used in the sample. However, given the size of the sample, results may also apply to similar universities in the same region. In future research, additional universities could be sampled in different areas. Also, the timing of data collection may have affected student responses. Data were collected in the last week of the spring 2017 semester when students were dealing with final exams, securing internships, and summer vacations. Future data collection efforts should be in the middle of the semester when students can focus more. Self-reporting was heavily relied upon in this study. Although self-reported measures are valid and reliable, responses are vulnerable to human error, participant honesty, and accuracy. Perhaps another limitation is that the distribution for the self-esteem variable was not normal. This could have been due to several factors. Perhaps the scales were too easy or too hard for the sample. Also, some students could have randomly submitted answers without consideration. Self-esteem self-reported data may have been skewed because most people have self-esteem, whether it is high or low. Further, there may have been a component of social desirability; putting oneself forward in the best light. For instance, if they are not happy they say they are in fear of not being accepted, being labelled, or not fitting in. The researcher had expected that both factors would be significant, but surprisingly only one was significant.
Even though these limitations exist, this study has inherent strengths. First, two very reliable and valid scales were incorporated into the tool. Second, the sample size was not only good in number, but it was ethnically diverse and also had a good range of ages. And finally, it provided insight that maybe more information and other factors are needed for similar future studies.
APPLICATIONS IN SPORT
Over the past 20 to 30 years, an alarming number of youth, adolescents, and adults have become increasingly overweight and obese leading to increased physical and psychological ailments (22). Remaining active throughout one’s life, particularly in sports, will not only improve health, but help offset declining self-esteem and increasing depression that often accompanies aging. This study is instructive as the results lend support to public policy to advocate and continue sports throughout one’s lifetime for better physical and psychological benefits. It is invaluable information to have in the ongoing battle against obesity. Many sport opportunities for students rely on adequate funding, and often get reduced due to lack of program funds. The information from this study becomes important for schools and sport programs to allocate more funding for sports and to create more sport opportunities for students.
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