Chart of the day

Looks like I’ve done pretty well for just playing a fair amount of pick-up basketball back in high school.  Via the Atlantic:

Are high-school sports conferring leadership skills and self-confidence onto a bunch of otherwise unambitious kids? Or are they simply signals, activities that professionally gifted youth gravitate toward? It’s not exactly clear. On one hand, team sports, with their constant passing of balls, pucks, and batons, might teach children and teens cooperation. And young people might learn something just from being in situations when they’re subordinates. But on the other hand, the likelihood that someone plays a sport could have to do with several variables not recorded in the data: coming from a family that can afford the proper equipment, that has the time to shuttle kids to practice, or that puts a premium on physical activity. Also, “popular” kids might be more likely to play sports, and popularity is really just a proxy for networking prowess—something that the business world prizes.

We don’t have an answer on this yet, but my supposition is that far more than anything else we are looking at selection bias.  I suspect the self-discipline and related non-cognitive skills that it takes to balance official high school athletics with academics, as well as the drive and ambition, reflect individuals who are going to succeed more in life, regardless of whatever teamwork and coaching may teach you.  Regardless, interesting.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

3 Responses to Chart of the day

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    Maybe the more active and coordinated kids go in for sports. Those kids are maybe considered to be better looking than those not so physically fit. Maybe the ones who are liked by others feel comfortable with organized sports. All that would be important in management too.
    This is too simplistic.

    • Steve Greene says:

      Also good theories, but regardless of the actual reasons, your argument agrees with mine that we are looking at selection bias rather than anything inherent about being on a HS sports team.

  2. Joe Bond says:

    I certainly think it’s a mix of selection bias and class. I’d love to see something that looks across the spectrum of sports or even just track and field. As a distance runner in high school (and still today) I certainly think that 40 miles a week for four years taught me a thing or two.

    We also had a quite a few distance runners in the Park Program.

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