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Recreational Services KPI

Literature Review of the Influence of Participation in Campus Recreation Programs on Student Recruitment, Retention, Scholastic Success and Satisfaction James Todd, Associate Director Recreational Services University of New Mexico

The National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) conducted a study on the impact of participation in recreational sports programs and activities on college campuses. Several key relationships between participation and college success were identified. The study represented the most comprehensive attempt to investigate the impact of participation in recreational sports programs and activities on college satisfaction and performance. More than 2,600 students from sixteen (16) colleges participated in the this first study ever conducted with respect to the value of participation in Recreational Sports (Downs, 2003, p 9).

The NIRSA study found that participation in recreational sports programs and activities is correlated with overall college satisfaction and success (Downs, 2003, p 9). Students agreed that participating in recreational sports resulted in the following wide range of benefits (in priority order):

  1. Improves emotional well-being
  2. Reduces stress
  3. Improves happiness
  4. Improves self-confidence
  5. Builds character
  6. Makes students feel like part of the college community
  7. Improves interaction with diverse sets of people
  8. Is an important part of college social life
  9. Teaches team building skills
  10. Is an important part of the learning experience
  11. Aids in time management
  12. Improves leadership skills (Downs, 2003, p 11).

Additional research has shown one of the most consistent findings in recreational research is that student satisfaction is highly correlated with extracurricular involvement, specifically in intramural and recreational sports (Down, 2003, p 13). In this research, Ryan found that “Participation in intramural sports appears to have a positive effect on student retention, degree aspirations and satisfaction with the college experience (Ryan, 1990, p100). Ryan also found that intramural sports participation was one of the strongest in-college activity predictors of overall college satisfaction.

In a study conducted by Mass at Arizona State University comparing persistence rates of college freshmen who were users and non-users of the university’s Student Recreation Complex (SRC), Maas found that persistence rates for SRC users “clearly outpaced that of their non-user counterparts.” (Belch, Gebel & Mass, 1999, p 261).

The Art and Science Group conducted a telephone survey of prospective students which indicated a strong correlation between intramural and recreational sports and student recruitment. Published in “Student Poll,” Vol. 4, No. 4, one of the major findings of the poll indicated that intramural and recreational sports have a much greater influence on college choice than intercollegiate athletics (p 1).

A 2001 report from Washington State University illustrated a positive relationship between grade point average (GPA) and frequency of Student Recreation Center (SRC) use. Data from student card operations and the institution’s Data Warehouse were combined to show that for every semester (spring, summer and fall), both GPAs and average credit hours taken were higher for students used the SRC than those that never used the SRC (Downs, 2003, p 16, Washington State University).

From the research article Gym Bags and Mortarboards: Is Use of Campus Recreation Facilities Related to Student Success?, the authors found that “Student use of CRFs, the focal point of this study, was found to have a significant influence on both predicted probability of first-year retention and predicted probability of 5-year graduation. This influence was evident even after controlling for important variables related to academic preparedness, financial need, and social fit. Usage of CRF one standard deviation more than average, or about 25 times over the course of the semester, increased a student’s predicted probability of first-year retention by 1% and predicted probability of 5-year graduation by 2% (Huesman, et. al., NASPA Journal, 2009, Vol. 46, no. 1).