Former Athletes Score Big in Job Hunt Credit: Sports image via Shutterstock

Former high school athletes have a leg up on the competition when seeking top jobs, new research suggests.

Employers expect workers who played varsity high school sports to be more self-confident, have more self-respect and demonstrate more leadership than their peers who participated in other extracurricular activities, according to a Cornell University study.

"Participation in competitive youth sports 'spills over' to occupationally advantageous traits that persist across a person's life," said Kevin Kniffin, one of the study's authors and a postdoctoral research associate at Cornell's Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.

Researchers found that former athletes carry these characteristics with them throughout their careers. The study discovered that many ex-jock octogenarians, those between the ages of 80 and 89, parlayed 65-year-old leadership skills into successful management careers, including some at the highest level.

Additionally, former varsity athletes also reported significantly higher prosocial volunteerism and charitable activities.

"In our study of late-career workers, those who earned a varsity letter more than 50 years ago do demonstrate these characteristics more than others. Plus, they donate time and money more frequently than others and possessed great prosocial behavior in their 70s, 80s and 90s," said Kniffin.

As part of the study, researchers asked 66 employed adults how much they agreed with statements about the character of those who played sports in high school as well as those who did other activities like the marching band or yearbook club. The findings showed that those surveyed expect former high school athletes to be more self-confident, self-respecting leaders.

In a second survey, 931 men who graduated high school about 60 years ago answered questions about their professional successes and their contributions to their communities. The researchers found that those who had played high school sports were more likely to volunteer their time and donate to organizations such as Girl Scouts, the United Way and the Red Cross.

The study's authors said the results underscore the importance of maintaining high school sports programs.

"These findings are encouraging because they show evidence of long-term, positive, personal and societal benefits of high school sports," Kniffin said. "What is particularly important to note about this research is that it shows that positive traits associated with playing sports can impact individuals and communities for decades."

The study, co-authored by Cornell marketing professor Brian Wansink and Illinois State University assistant professor Mitsuru Shimizu, was recently published online in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies.

Originally published on Business News Daily