Wednesday, April 25, 2007

High School Sports Response

A commentor over at the Education Wonks, left the following comment regarding Edwonk's link to my post on doing away with high school sports because they don't meet the central mission of educating students:
"If that is the case, then what skills should children leave schools with?Is being able to work together to achieve a goal a skill children should leave schools with?Is getting up after being knocked down a skill children should leave schools with?Is perseverance a skill children should leave school leave schools with?Is a healthy lifestyle a skill children to should leave school with?Is goal setting a skill children should leave school with?If so, can we keep team sports?"

I am a coach--maybe not a very good one, but I am a coach. So here is my response as a participant in today's high school sports world:

1. Is being able to work together to achieve a goal a skill children should leave school with?
A: Yes. Young adults need to learn how to work together. Unfortunately, too many of today's athletes, and certainly athletes from previous times, believe that they are above working with inferior teammates. Select teams like AAU do not need to follow the "everyone plays" mantra of public schools. Because parents or students are not shelling out cash to play high school sports (in most cases) these individuals feel it is their right by virtue of paying taxes to dictate who plays and who gets treated well.
And, when things go poorly--meaning teams don't win--the only working together that actually happens is bitching and moaning by "star" athletes and their helicopter parents.

2. Is getting up after being knocked down a skill children should leave schools with?
A: Absolutely. But let's remember that getting up after getting knocked down requires the individual to want to do such a thing. It also requires that the individual accept that getting knocked down is part of the sport--of course this is both actual and metaphorical. Too many athletes don't value hard work and determination, both necessary for getting back up. It is much easier to, when the team goes 5-15 on a season, blame the coach and get her run out of town. School district's don't want bad P.R. so this is the easiest method.

3. Is perseverance a skill children should leave school leave schools with?
A: Cal Ripken Jr. is my idol--so, yes. But perseverance, again, is a personality trait that most teenage athletes are unwilling to obtain. Finishing a dunk through traffic is easy on the video game, therefore it should be easy on the real court. But it isn't. I've watched to many of my own athletes quit, both literally and mentally, when perseverance is required.

4. Is a healthy lifestyle a skill children to should leave school with?
A: Sure, but P.E. and Health classes cover this.

5. Is goal setting a skill children should leave school with?
A: Absolutely, but again, schools do this in the classroom.

6. If so, can we keep team sports?"
A: I don't see them going anywhere. And it isn't that I truly believe that they should. Ultimately though, we must look at sports and evaluate our (school district's) commitment to those athletes AND coaches.
The Seattle Times had a recent article about an inept principal who erroneaously fired the football coach--among other things. That is the reality of today's high school athletic world. Coaching is no longer about teaching all of those important skills; it has become a win or be gone world where parents and politics have more influence than the coach with the knowledge. When school districts begin to demonstrate that they will support their coaches, even while parents bitch and moan, I will be willing to keep high school athletics. When the power is returned to those who deserve it, I will be willing to keep high school athletics. Until then, I'd rather see them go away.

3 Comments:

At 11:29 AM , Blogger Teachable Moment said...

Good article...I could not agree more...I became a social entrepreneur four years ago to help students get ready for the "real" world.

You may find my website of interest and please feel free to use the character development ideas if you think they can help your students.

 
At 5:51 AM , Blogger Chris Lehmann said...

As a principal -- and former coach -- I can say that I want kids playing sports, regardless of whether we win or lose. I was an urban coach at a school with no gym or fields (and now I'm an urban principal w/ the same.) My girls basketball team and my Ultimate frisbee teams practiced at 6:30 in the morning to get gym / field space. Everyone was there every morning. We worked and played together. We got better together. And we won and lost together.

The goal was never winning. It was always teaching and learning. And the cool thing was that because of that, we won a lot too.

And I always worked for principals who didn't care if we won or lost. And today, I try to make sure that my coaches and students know that the goal isn't the win -- it's excellence. It's bettering ourselves. It's learning dedication and sweat equity and teamwork.

We can still make high school sports everything it should be. And I agree, we need administrators who are willing to do that.

 
At 8:42 AM , Anonymous pedantic peasant said...

Good post and good comments. As someone who grew up with little coordination and was more comfortable with a book than a ball and therefore fell into the arts, speech, and theatre track, I also find the discrepancy between the funding of the sports program and the "legitimacy" of sports and the lack of funding and supports for non-athletic extra-curriculars.

Can't the same questions be asked?

"What skills should children leave schools with?Is being able to work together to achieve a goal a skill children should leave schools with?
and can't it also be taught by theatre, orchestra, and group debate?

"Is getting up after being knocked down a skill children should leave schools with?"
And don't bad perforances and lost debates teach the same skills and values? Possibly even more so, as one is more likely to lose an argument or have a bad presentation as an adult than get tackled on the way to the water cooler.

Is perseverance a skill children should leave school leave schools with?
Again, attempting to improve is the point, whether at art, dance, speech, music, performance, or athletics.
"Is a healthy lifestyle a skill children to should leave school with?
While this is perhaps less of a parallel, there are still some elements where this is a valid goal. Furthermore, speech and debate, theatre, and musical performance all aid in developing such important work-a-day skills like organization, attention to detail, and public speaking which are not always aided by athletics.
"Is goal setting a skill children should leave school with? And, if all of these arguments are approximately equal, couldn't one ask if these other activities should be funded equally with school athletics (or perhaps, vice versa)?

 

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