As Americaâ€™s economy continues to sputter, both public and private entities throughout the country are looking to cut money from their budgets. In education, nearly all components are on the chopping block. In the last several years, corporations have had to close buildings and look at numerous other ways to cut budgets. Athletics has certainly faced it’s fair share of cuts as well. Schools in Indiana have cut programs, cut coaches, and have even instituted fees for student-athlete participation. Certain people have called for even more cuts in athletics.
During these tough times, I think we as a society should take some time and take a look at all that is right in high school athletics. We also will see why, now more than ever, high school athletics has an important place in society.
Reason #1-High School Sports Teaches Core Values
One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is seeing the progression of student-athletes as they mature through adolescence. My first contact with students comes very early in their freshman year of high school. Most of the time, the freshmen are in no way shape or form ready for a leadership position. They lack skills like hard work and discipline.
During their time in high school, student-athletes learn all of these great skills. As freshman mature, these students find themselves being placed into leadership roles. In many cases, they become problem solvers on the field. Something that is even more amazing is the fact that often times, these newly created leaders are the ones that you least suspect!
High school athletes are also role models. They understand that their behavior is often imitated by younger generations. Because of this, high school athletes must learn things like respect and compassion.
Reason #2-High School Athletes Do Better In School
Early on in my first year as athletic director, I instituted an award for the sports team with the highest team GPA. I had 3 major reasons why I instituted this award. First, I think is very important that the athletic department recognizes student academic achievement. Second, I wanted to create a sense of competition between the different sports teams. Third, I wanted to see how our student-athletes did in comparison to the general student competition.
When the data came into my office, I was certainly not surprised in the fact that student-athletes had better grade point averages than the general student population – something that numerous studies have shown to be the case on the national level. What really surprised me was the fact that 18 of our 20 athletic teams had grade point averages about 3.0. Numerous teams had grade point averages about 3.5. In all three athletic seasons, the average grade point average was substantially higher than the general student population.
Studies have shown that this same data trend holds true for students involved in any activity. The question that I pose is this: What would happen to a studentâ€™s GPA if athletics was not a part of their life? I certainly hope to never find out the answer to this question.
Reason #3-High School Sports Prepares Students For The Future
On average, 10-15 high school seniors will take their talents to the next level and play college athletics. This means that the vast majority of student-athletes will be doing something else after their high school eligibility expires. Many of our student-athletes enroll in college. Students who participated in high school athletics have lots of experience in time management. When alumni come back to visit me, they often discuss how they are happy they are that they are able to manage time, a skill they learned in high school sports.
Student-athletes are also in a better position in college because of their ability to compete. They are not scared by competition, be it for grades, scholarships, or admission to their school. I can think of no greater place to learn the skill of competition than the court or the ball field.
I could go on and discuss other reasons as to why high school athletics are important, but I think a better topic to look at is…
What can you do to help high school sports?
- Go To A Game:Â High school athletes throughout the country need support. What better way to support them then by attending a game? Players certainly appreciate the support and attention that they get from fans. Who knows, you might even enjoy yourself.
- Be a Coach:Â High schools throughout the state have openings for coaching positions. If you have the background knowledge and ability, it might be worth your time to coach. The chance to positively impact a life is a nice reward for a dayâ€™s work.
- Become an Official:Â In addition to the difficulty finding coaches, another challenge for high schools is finding officials. There are a number of officials’ associations throughout the state of Indiana who would love to add to their membership. These associations are very supportive of new members.
For younger people, officiating is a great way to stay connected to the game that you used to play. While you will never get rich financially by officiating high school games, you will get the opportunity to be involved and help young people grow.
One of the really great things about Indiana is the fact that high school sports matter. Many small communities throughout the state are, to some degree, defined by their high school’s athletics successes. When a certain town is mentioned, it is often followed by the statement â€œdidnâ€™t so and so play there?â€ While many people assume that this type conversation happens everywhere in the country, this is certainly not the case.
Life without high school sports would certainly leave a lot to be desired both for the community and the student-athlete. No longer would we have the privilege of watching young people overcome adversity right before our eyes. No longer would we see the coming together of a community over a team that the town could be proud of. Certainly, some athletes would still have the opportunity to play in sports though AAU or other entities. Even for these student-athletes, it would not be the same. There is something about wearing your schoolâ€™s team name on the front of the jersey that cannot be matched.