Building on two previous pieces of More than a Sport: Tennis, Education & Health (2013) and the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters (2018), WSF recently released a new report, How Tennis Influences Youth Development, that assesses tennis and its role as an educational tool and public health asset.
The research, which is based on a cross-sectional study of American secondary students called Monitoring the Future (MTF), compares the benefits of tennis with those of other sports. Some of the key findings as they pertain to WSF’s mission of educating the public on athletic opportunities for girls include:
Tennis players are high academic achievers
In many academic categories — including percentage of A’s, average grade and college attendance and graduation aspirations — tennis earned either the highest or second-highest ranking when compared to other sports. More than 70% of youth who played tennis indicated that they would “definitely go to and graduate from a four-year college.”
Tennis also ranked lowest among the 15 sports assessed for both suspension and being sent to the principal’s office.
Girls who play tennis play other sports too
Per the report’s findings, 58% of girls who play tennis also play at least one other sport in their community. When considering the top 10 most popular sports, girls who played tennis were most likely to participate in soccer or lacrosse.
This is significant when observed in the context of other research on youth participation in sport. Based on WSF’s Teen Sport Report, teens who participated in more than one sport benefitted the most from the positive effects of sport, including better academic performance and better psychological and physical health.
Tennis’ benefits are consistent across socioeconomic groups
Much of WSF’s work involves expanding athletic access and opportunity to girls and women in underserved communities. Thus, the report’s findings that tennis benefits youth consistently no matter their socioeconomic background is important to note.
Research published by WSF in 2015 entitled Her Life Depends on It III highlights the discrepancies in access to sport between urban girls and girls of color compared to their white, suburban counterparts. In general, girls from urban areas and girls of color had less access to the benefits and life skills that sport and physical activity have to offer.
Per How Tennis Influences Youth Development, adolescents who came from higher socioeconomic backgrounds tended to have better academic, behavioral, social and health outcomes, but the impact of tennis was similar across all socioeconomic groups.