"Tell your parents, whatever they ground you from, it should not be from practice or a club activity. If they ground you from a school club, you are more likely to end up living at house because you will not be going to college," said sociologist and study co-author Lance Erickson from the Utah-based Brigham Young University.

Erickson spent four years constructing a statistical model that could answer critics' arguments.

The sample includes 90,000 high school students and up to 10 of their friends.

Since friends often join a team or club together, the model subtracts out the positive influence of friends who are also team mates.

That isolates the impact of team mates who are not otherwise in a student's social circle.

To the surprise of the researchers, the type of team or club did not really matter.

"Typically you think the benefits of participating come from the type of club or the intensity of the skills you learned there. I think we are the first to show that who you are hanging out with in those activities really matters," lead study author Ben Gibbs added.

"I would encourage middle schools and junior high schools to devote resources to those kinds of things so that as they transition to high school, they are prepared to join a team," said co-author Mikaela Dufur.