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Study: Athletes Who Played High School Sports Make Better Employees

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Two-time Stanley Cup champion and Ithaca native Dustin Brown celebrates a goal during the Men's Gold Medal Hockey match between USA and Canada at the Canada Hockey Place during the XXI Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada on February 28, 2010.  Brown played hockey at Ithaca High School for two years. (credit: CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Two-time Stanley Cup champion and Ithaca native Dustin Brown celebrates a goal during the Men’s Gold Medal Hockey match between USA and Canada at the Canada Hockey Place during the XXI Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada on February 28, 2010. Brown played hockey at Ithaca High School for two years. (credit: CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images)

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ITHACA, NY (CBS Connecticut) – According to a new study, athletes who played youth and high school sports make better employees and have better career opportunities that those who didn’t.

“Men who participated in varsity-level high school sports on an average of 60 years earlier appeared to demonstrate higher levels of leadership and enjoyed high-status careers,” the study found.

Kevin Kniffin, a behavioral science professor at Cornell University, and lead author of this study, said he started researching about two years ago and that the idea came to him on a “hunch.”

“It was also based on research that demonstrates that athletes who play in high school sports tend to earn higher salaries,” Kniffin told the Ithaca Times. “Previous research hadn’t acknowledged why that’s the case. What this paper does is help shed light on why that relationship exists.

Kniffin’s study breaks down the reasons athletes develop improved skills from lessons learned while being an athlete.

He began to find out if playing sports 50 years ago had an effect on people’s daily life today.

“The first part of the project, which would end up being Study 2, was using the survey of World War II vets,” Kniffin explained the newspaper. “Study 2 looked at it and found significant relationships of more than five decades of people who played versus didn’t play. It found that people who played a sport demonstrated more self-confidence and leadership over 50 years later.”

Kniffin also looked at members who were elected to Congress and see if they played sports in high school.

Kniffin was also inspired by two-time Stanley Cup champion Dustin Brown.  “His story was one of the motivations for me,” Kniffin said.  “We found that 43 percent of seniors played a high school sport.  It’s a common source of experience for people. Sports is a unique as well as a commonly shared experience.  Without a doubt, I learned tons of important lifelong lessons, not just as a high school athlete, but in competitive youth sports, like Little League and Pop Warner.

Kniffin was surprised to find out that adults who played sports were more likely to donate money to charity. “The explanation we have is that there are certain prosocial activities and traits that are prized within sports teams, and they seem to spill over into working relationships,” he said.

The study suggests that the most successful aren’t always the one with the highest GPA.

“A fun impact of that was several people have contacted me with anecdotes of their own where they interviewed for a job that hatd nothing to do with sports, but got the job because they had a high school record for swimming,” Kniffin said.

The report is titled “Sports at Work: anticipated and Persistent Correlations of Participation in high School Athletics” was co-written by Brian Wansink and Mitsuru Shimizu.

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