INTRODUCTION Many individuals exercise everyday for reasons such as improving physical health, improving body image, or improving performance in a particular sport. Some individuals do not know that physical fitness is positively correlated with cognitive functioning and self-discipline or that it is negatively correlated with stress. Especially with team sports athletes, who exercise vigorously everyday, the "dumb jock" stereotype still exists. Just being a team sports athlete increases stress for some individuals. Some people handle the stress being an athlete can bring better than others depending on their level of self-discipline. Exercise has many physical and psychological benefits(Santrock, 1999). A study was done on the relationship between physical activity and the cognitive ability of older adults (Clarkson-Smith & Hartley, 1989). Some adults did 1 1/4 hours of strenuous exercise a week. Some exercised less than ten minutes per week. The adults that exercised more performed better on tests of reasoning, memory, and reaction time than the adults who exercised very little.
Several studies have been done on the academic achievement of college athletes and have come up with supportive and non-supportive results. One study was done on the academic achievement of team sports athletes in which researchers acquired educational records of athletes and non-athletes to evaluate their graduation rates. This study revealed athletes are less likely to graduate than non-athletes (Purdy, Eitzen, and Hufnagel,1982).The researchers also mentioned that females inflated the graduation rate. They attributed this to the idea that females acknowledge that they do not have a chance for a successful future in sports.
In addition to self esteem, another relatioship that has intersted researchers in the past is self-discipline and academic performance. One study done on personality as a predictor of college performance (Wolfe & Johnson,1995) found that after G.P.A. self-control was the best predictor of college performance. The researchers the students records and personality was measured using Cronbach`s Alpha. As a result the researchers suggested that self-control be assessed as part of the college admisions process. Another factor affecting academic performance is stress. Stress can be caused by a number of factors, for example daily problems or major events in one`s life (Bishop, 1994). Stress does not affect everyone in the same way. In certain situations, some people may remain calm while others may become extremely uncomfortable.
In the past most studies have focused on athletes versus non-athletes or the differences within athletes such as black versus white, male versus female, or scholarship recipients versus no scholarship. One study in particular investigated the relationship between self concept and academic performance in African-American athletes versus Caucasian athletes (Killeya, 2001). The researcher obtained the participants` grade point averages from their transcripts and measured their self-esteem with Rosenburg`s 10-item self esteem scale. The results showed that for African-Americans self-esteem was a good predictor of academic performance but for Caucasians there was no relationship between academic performance and self-esteem.
According to Brown and Siegel (1988) exercise acts as a buffer against stress. In their study high school girls self-reported stress levels, physical activity, and illnesses through several questionnaires, and did so again nine months later.Brown and Siegel found that life stress predicted later illness and that the relationship was much stronger for the girls that did not exercise very often if at all. Based on the research aforemantioned, it was hypothesized that team sports athletes would exhibit lower G.P.A.s, more self discipline, and higher stress levels than solitary athletes would. Solitary athletes were expected to exhibit higher G.P.A.s, less self-discipline, and lower stress levels than team sports athletes would.
Seventy participants ages 18-23, male and female volunteered to participate. All participants were required to play a sport for a team or engage in some vigorous physical activity for at least sixty minutes three times a week. All participants were students at Loyola University New Orleans. The participants were recruited through convenience sampling and quota sampling.
A paper and pencil demographic survey containing eleven items in which participants self-reported their age, sex, race, major, academic year, G.P.A., type of exercise they engage in, and why was used. A true false paper and pencil questionnaire containing fifty items from the California Psychological Inventory (Gough, 1957) was used to measure self-discipline. The lowest possible score was 0 and the highest possible was 50. Stress levels were measured with a twenty-two item questionnaire by Girdano, Everly, and Dusek (1990). The highest possible score was 120 points and the lowest possible was 30 points.
DESIGN AND PROCEDURE
The experiment was a single variable between groups quasi-experimental design. The independent variable was athletes with teo levels: team sports and solitary. The dependent variables were grade point averages, self-discipline, and stress levels. Participants were tested in groups on weekdays between 7:00 am and 8:00 pm during Fall 2001.The participants were told the purpose of the study then read and signed the informed consent forms. Afterwards, they filled out the surveys which took about twenty minutes. Then the researchers debriefed the participants, answered any questions they had, and thanked them for thier participation.
RESULTS None of the hypothesized differences were statistically significant. A t- test was used to analyze the data. The mean of G.P.A was 3.00,SD=.4246 for team sports athletes and 3.15,SD=.4492 for solitary athletes,t(68)=1.40,p=.16. The mean of self-discipline was 22.11,SD=7.69 for team sports athletes and 24.40,SD=7.49 for solitary athletes,t(68)=1.25,p=.21.The mean of stress was 74.05,SD=14.08 for team sports athletes and 67.74,SD=14.32 for solitary athletes,t(68)=-1.85,p=.06. However, a negative correlation between self-discipline and stress was found for both athletes r(68)= -.535,p = .00.
DISCUSSION A requirement for participation in the study was that one exercised at least three times a week for sixty minutes. The mean G.P.A. of participants was 3.1. This finding is consistent with other research in which physical activity is positively correlated with scores on tests of reasoning, memory, and reaction time (Clarkson-Smith & Hartley, 1989). The mean of stress levels of the participants was 70.9. The scores that fall into the 30-75 range are low. This finding is consistent with past research that found that exercise acts as a buffer against stress (Brown & Siegel, 1988). The findings on self-discipline were inconsistent with past research that suggests that self-control is a good predictor of college performance. There was no significant relationship between G.P.A. and self-discipline in this study.
No significant difference was found between the type of athlete and G.P.A. One possible explanation may be the fact that the study was conducted at a university that does not offer athletic scholarships. Therefore, all students must meet the same academic criteria to be accepted. Another possible explanation may be that team sports athletes have to maintain a G.P.A. of at least a 2.0. The minimum G.P.A. of the participants was 2.0.When interpreting the results several limitations should be taken into consideration. First of all, the sample was collected through convenience and quota sampling. The sample may not be representative of the population, which may have effected the results. Another limitation may be that the participants did not take the survey seriously because it was very long. Also participants could lie about self-reported measures.
Even though no differences were found in the self-discipline or stress levels of the athletes the negative the negative correlation that was found between self-discipline and stress suggests that knowing a person`s self-disipline and stress levels could be important in the selection of athletes for team sports. The study mentioned before on personality as a predictor of college performance concluded that self-control be assessed as part of the admissions process (Wolfe & Johnson, 1995) This might be applicable to athletes by assessing ability to handle stress and self-control levels as part of the recruitment process. Some people may make better candidates for team sports athletes than others because of superior ability to handle the amount of stress being an athlete can bring.
This study adds to the body of knowledge of health psychology. Our results support the results of a study by Brown and Siegel who found that exercise acts as a buffer against stress (1988). The mean of stress for all participants was 70.9. As mentioned before, scores ranging from 30-75 are low. Since a requirement for participation in this study was that a person exercise the low mean of stress levels is attributed to the fact that they all exercised. Also the negative correlation found between stress and self-discipline adds to what we know about stress. The results of this study may also lead to future research in sport psychology concerning athletes` stress levels and self-control.
In future research, the participants should come from colleges that offer athletic scholarships as well as colleges that do no to see if there is a any difference in G.P.A., self-discipline, and stress levels between the two. A past study that was done at colleges that do offer athletic scholarships concluded that athletes are less likely to graduate than non-athletes (Purdy, Eitzen, & Hufnagel, 1982). The sample size should also be much larger in order to obtain a sample that is more representative of the population. Also different stress management techniques can be evaluated in future research by comparing the athletic and academic performance of college athletes that have been through a specific technique, for example meditation, with a control group that has not had any type of stress management.
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