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.