Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

"Winners" and "Losers": The Effects of Being Allowed or Denied Entry into Competitive Extracurricular Activities

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

"Winners" and "Losers": The Effects of Being Allowed or Denied Entry into Competitive Extracurricular Activities

Article excerpt

Introduction

Most high schools encourage students to participate in various extracurricular activities, such as athletics, vocational clubs, student government, newspapers and yearbooks, and special interest groups. There is a wealth of evidence to support the contention that participation in these extracurricular activities has a beneficial effect on academic performance and achievement, and on other areas of psychosocial functioning as well. The majority of these studies have found differences when comparing students who participate to those who do not, and these results have held even after ethnicity, income, grade level, and other background factors were statistically controlled (e.g., Cooper, Valentine, Nye, & Lindsay, 1999; Eccles & Barber, 1999; Gerber, 1996; Mahoney & Cairns, 1997; Marsh, 1992; Pedersen & Seidman, 2005). While differences in the frequency and degree of participation in extracurricular activities among gender and ethnic groups has been noted (Gerber; McNeal, 1998; Peng & Wright, 1994), the beneficial effects of such participation on academic and psychosocial variables have been consistently found.

However, with the exception of males participating in athletics, the literature has not delved into the increasing number of high school extracurricular activities that are competitive and selective-those that require students to actively and intensely compete for participation-and as a result bifurcate these auditioners into "winners" and "losers." The present study attempted to fill this void by comparing high school girls who were successful in their bid to access a highly selective extracurricular activity to those who were not successful on academic, emotional, psychological, and delinquency variables.

Review of Related Literature

Participation in Extracurricular Activities: Relationships with Academic Achievement

A positive relationship between participation in extracurricular activities and academic performance has been demonstrated in a number of studies (Crittendon, 1999; Eccles & Barber, 1999; Gerber, 1996; Holland & Andre, 1987; Lisella & Serwatka, 1996; Marsh, 1992; Silliker & Quirk, 1997). For example, Camp (1990) found evidence for the effects of participation in extracurricular activities on students' success in school while controlling for the effects of other variables such as academic ability, family background, and other competing time-use activities that could reasonably affect those grades. Activity participation was found to have a significant positive effect on academic achievement even more than twice as great as study habits, which are generally regarded as an influential variable in academic achievement. Cooper, et al. (1999) demonstrated that this relationship could not be explained solely by the differential selection of higher-achieving students into extracurricular activities. Eccles and her colleagues (Barber, Eccles, & Stone, 2001; Eccles, Barber, Stone, & Hunt, 2003) summarized their findings from extensive longitudinal research on adolescents' extracurricular activity involvement concluding that there is clear evidence for the dual role of extracurricular activity participation in serving both a promotive role facilitating academic performance, and also a protective role in deterring youth from involvement in risky activities.

Participation in Extracurricular Activities: Relationships with Psychosocial Variables

Several authors have attempted to explain the reasons underlying the relationship between participation in extracurricular activities and academic achievement, suggesting that the impact of extracurricular activity involvement on psychosocial variables more directly accounts for these findings (e.g., Rutter, Maughan, Mortimore, Ouston, & Smith, 1979; Spady, 1970). In particular, the suggestions that these relationships have been found because participation in extracurricular activities leads to enhanced self-concept (Marsh, 1991a, 1991b) or increased identification with school (Finn, 1989) have been supported by empirical research. …

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