NFHS, Butler University Announce Research Study on Value of High School Activity Programs | Athletic Business

NFHS, Butler University Announce Research Study on Value of High School Activity Programs

SOURCE: National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (July 23, 2019) — The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and Butler University will work together on a 10-year research study to assess the value of high school sports and other activity programs from the perspective of students’ mothers.

The partnership was announced today during a signing ceremony on the Butler University campus in Indianapolis, which involved leaders from Butler and the NFHS and more than 150 high school student leaders who are attending the NFHS National Student Leadership Summit at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Indianapolis.

With the official project title of “Leadership Communication and Psychological Effects of Mothers of High School Student-Athletes,” researchers will collect data on mothers’ perspectives on their student-athletes or student activity participants from the beginning of their ninth-grade school year through the first 90 days of entry into the workplace.

“We are excited to be educational partners with Butler University in studying mothers’ perspectives of their children’s experiences in high school athletics and performing arts,” said Dr. Karissa Niehoff, NFHS executive director. “The result of this study is imperative to the growth of interscholastic activity participation from the perspective of sport and activity culture education.”

In looking at the high school student leaders in the audience, Niehoff said the NFHS wanted to execute this 10-year research project in front of the students.

“You are the fabric of our future. We wanted to publicly show what high school activities look like – they look like you,” Niehoff said. “We are excited about this project as we look at the benefits of education-based activities. When we think about this project, we think about you – the kids.”

Mark Beckman, executive director of the Montana High School Association and president of the NFHS Board of Directors during the 2019-20 school year, attended the signing ceremony as well. Beckman noted that the NFHS Board of Directors had approved funding for this research and was excited about the potential for discovering new information from mothers of student participants.

“In representing the NFHS Board of Directors, we are thankful for this association with Butler University,” Beckman said. “We look forward to the tremendous information that will come from this project.” 

Headlining the research at Butler will be Dr. Krista Cline of the Butler College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Eileen Taylor, an instructor in the Butler College of Communication.

Other leaders from Butler participating in the Official Signing Ceremony in the Atherton Union Building on the Butler campus were Dr. Jay Howard, Professor of Sociology and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Dr. Kathryn Morris, Provost and Vice-President of Academic Affairs; and Lori Greene, Vice-President of Enrollment Management.

“We are pleased that this partnership involves funding for undergraduates to be involved in research, which is the creation of new knowledge,” Howard said. “Moms do the vast majority of household labor. They anticipate needs and monitor the process. We believe this is cutting edge research on mothers’ involvement in their students’ lives. Education success – that is what the NFHS and Butler want to come from this collaborative partnership.”

The 10-year longitudinal research study will begin in Indiana and expand to the rest of the country. The goal is to research and publish credible information to assess the value of high school activity programs from the perspective of mothers, which will assist the NFHS in building relationships with mothers of high school student-athletes and student activity participants.  

Researchers will submit quarterly performance reports to the NFHS as well as an annual report on July 31. The study will involve a literature review of career competency expectations in the workforce that may be developed through participation in high school activity programs.

The NFHS has used information from The Case for High School Activities for many years to demonstrate the values of participation in high school activity programs. Participation in high school sports has increased every year for 29 consecutive years, and the NFHS hopes to obtain information from this long-term project with Butler to grow education-based sports and activity programs in high schools nationwide for years to come.

“Better understanding the challenges that mothers experience when their children are active in school-based activities will provide the NFHS with insight on how to craft effective messaging regarding risk minimization, appropriate mental-health practices and typical expectations for participating children and their families,” Niehoff said.

The NFHS, with its national office in Indianapolis, is the national leader and advocate for high school athletics as well as fine arts and performing arts programs. With its 51 member state associations, the NFHS serves 19,500 high schools and more than 12 million participants in sports and other activity programs.

About the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)

The NFHS, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, is the national leadership organization for high school sports and performing arts activities. Since 1920, the NFHS has led the development of education-based interscholastic sports and performing arts activities that help students succeed in their lives. The NFHS sets direction for the future by building awareness and support, improving the participation experience, establishing consistent standards and rules for competition, and helping those who oversee high school sports and activities. The NFHS writes playing rules for 17 sports for boys and girls at the high school level. Through its 50 member state associations and the District of Columbia, the NFHS reaches more than 19,500 high schools and 12 million participants in high school activity programs, including more than 7.9 million in high school sports. As the recognized national authority on interscholastic activity programs, the NFHS conducts national meetings; sanctions interstate events; offers online publications and services for high school coaches and officials; sponsors professional organizations for high school coaches, officials, speech and debate coaches, and music adjudicators; serves as the national source for interscholastic coach training; and serves as a national information resource of interscholastic athletics and activities. For more information, visit the NFHS website at

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