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How prep school sports are giving students game

A “well-rounded education” is more than just a marketing gimmick or tired cliché. There’s a growing academic, governmental, and industry consensus that playing sports results in higher grades as well as better performance in the workplace. Athletes also have an easier time getting into university and receiving scholarships. For those reasons and more, it’s no surprise that many prep schools place so much emphasis on sports education and training. Sports is more than just leisure and competition; it can contribute to a person’s character and capabilities in profound ways.

For example, the link between sports and academic performance may not be immediately intuitive, but it has been repeatedly established by studies. A review of scientific literature by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found “substantial evidence that physical activity can help improve academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores.” In an article for The New York Times, U.S. researchers Jay P. Greene and Daniel H. Bowen also agree that “schools that offer more sports and field more successful teams produce higher test scores and graduation rates.”

And the benefits of high school sports extend far into an individual’s life. U.S. behavioral scientist Kevin Kniffin said his research “showed that people who played high school sports tend to get better jobs, with better pay, and that those benefits last a lifetime.”

One of the likely reasons for that is employers tend to value traits associated with or gained through athletic participation. Alex Taylor, head of performance sport at the University of Birmingham, told The Guardian, “Employers have said that sporting students have the traits they’re looking for, particularly an ability to balance their academic and other commitments, like training for competitions, plus teamwork and decision-making.”

University admissions staff and employers also recognize that skills acquired from playing in team sports transfer pretty well into academia and the workplace. After all, university students must work together in group assignments and research settings, and workers must collaborate to achieve broader organizational goals.

Luke Treharne, a medical student who played rugby at the Commonwealth Games, told The Guardian, “There are people you can’t see eye-to-eye with but you have to work out how to get on with them and being able to learn from your teammates is also hugely beneficial.”

“Being a doctor, you work in massive teams of nurses, physios and pharmacists, so the skills you learn from meeting people in rugby crossover nicely. If you can get good teamwork within the hospital that’s when it runs most smoothly,” he said.

Participation and achievement in high school sports also makes the college application process considerably easier. In fact, colleges and universities have great incentive to admit athletically talented students. Tom Chandler, an athletic recruiting advisor, said via Unigo that “[c]ollege trustees at both private and public colleges and universities value the brand name recognition that successful athletic teams generate. That in turn leads more students to apply, thereby lowering the number they can accept which makes them more selective, allowing them to attract better students and faculty, and generate greater contributions from proud alumni.”

Furthermore, successful athletes may receive scholarships, reducing their financial burden and freeing up money for essential investments like cars and housing. Student debt is becoming a major problem across the world, meaning that every little cent now counts for a lot. According to ScholarshipStats.com, “U.S. Colleges awarded over $3 billion in athletic scholarships to varsity athletes during 2014.”

Given these tremendous benefits of sports, prep schools have been working to make athleticism part of their core identity and learning experience. One school, Putnam Science Academy (PSA) – a Connecticut based preparatory boarding school – has been particularly successful. PSA fields an elite prep school basketball program that includes postgraduate students and athletes.

PSA’s basketball team, the Mustangs, is one of the best of its kind, finishing the 2015-2016 season with 37 victories. Next Up Recruits, an organization approved by the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), named Tom Espinosa, the PSA coach, as the Northeast Region Coach of the Year. Throughout his tenure, Espinosa built one of the most recognized and successful prep basketball programs in the United States, sending more than a dozen players on to NCAA Divison I programs, while many others enjoy success on the Divison II and III levels.

As a testament to the strength of PSA’s basketball program, many of its players have gone on to achieve national fame. For example, ESPN ranked PSA’s very own Hamidou Diallo as 12th in the national basketball rating.

PSA’s athletic success has unsurprisingly translated into academic and admission success as well. The school placed 100% of its class of 2015 in colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. Many PSA students have been admitted in prestigious institutions, including Yale University; Dartmouth College; Georgetown University; University of California, Berkeley; and Boston College.

It’s an impressive performance by a prep school in small town Connecticut. But it’s a powerful demonstration that sports can provide a solid path to success. Putnam Science Academy proves that well-rounded education equals well-rounded success.

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The article is sponsored by the Putnam Science Academy (PSA). PSA is an all-male preparatory boarding school based in Putnam, Connecticut, that strives to develop young men who are committed to academic excellence and community engagement. The school maintains the philosophy of an 8-to-1 student-faculty ratio, providing generous interaction between students and faculty and promoting effective learning. PSA features a phenomenal basketball program, led by coach Tom Espinosa, who has amassed an impressive record of victories and accolades. Thanks to the school’s strong academic and athletic programs, PSA students have gone on to enroll at prestigious universities and achieve national fame as sportsmen.

Image courtesy of Putnam Science Academy

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