[N]ow, for the first time, new research has begun to document a measurable benefit to girls playing sports, sweeping away any fuzzy, feel-good reasons why girls athletics matter and showing that sports can truly change the lives of the young women who get the opportunity to win, lose, and just play. A study released earlier this year, examining the impact of Title IX, the federal law that opened the door for greater sports opportunities for girls, offers hard evidence that playing sports leads to greater educational and employment opportunities. Most notably, it found that up to 40 percent of the overall rise in employment of young women in recent decades can be attributed to the increased opportunity to play ball.
The findings are significant for one key reason: They take the conversation about sports out of the realm of abstraction and into the world of clear benefit. It has long been speculated that sports can teach young people qualities of character, or life lessons, that they might not learn otherwise, but now there is evidence that the games can be transformative — not only to the participants, but also to the workforce and even the country at large.