The Increasingly Important Role of Athletics in Schools

Benefits for Both the School and the Student-Athlete

High school basketball player in the locker room with team

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The value of athletics in schools is significant and cannot be overlooked. It has a profound impact on individuals, the school as a whole, as well as the community.

Athletics is powerful and transcendent. It can bridge gaps, bring people with relatively nothing in common together, and gives many participates unbelievable, life-altering opportunities. Here, we examine several of the key benefits of having an established, successful athletics program in your school.

Many Meaningful Opportunities

Virtually every little boy dreams of playing professional baseball, football, or basketball. Very few realize that dream, but it does not mean that athletics cannot provide them with other meaningful opportunities. The top tier athletes often receive a scholarship to attend college and continue their athletic career. For many, this may be their only opportunity to go to college. This opportunity, if taken advantage of, can be life-altering.

For the majority, high school is the last time they will participate in organized athletics as a player. However, there are still other opportunities that may result because of their participation in and passion for school athletics. Coaching is a terrific way to stay involved with athletics. Many successful coaches were average high school players with both a passion and understanding of how the game was played but without the individual talent necessary to succeed at the next level.

Athletics can also provide opportunities through relationships. In a team sport, players are typically close to one another. These relationships can span the length of a lifetime. Staying connected may provide you with a job or investment opportunity. It may simply provide you with life-long friends who have your back in any situation.

School Pride

Every school administrator and teacher want the student body to have pride in their school. Athletics is the building block of promoting school pride. Pre-game events such as homecoming, pep rallies, and parades are intended to show off that school pride. We love to support our team no matter whether we win or whether we lose. We hate our rivals and despise them, even more, when they beat us.

School pride is about coming together for every game—putting individual differences aside and yelling and cheering loudly together in support of your team. It is about painting our faces and wearing school colors. It is about the student section coming up with creative chants that get in the other team's heads before the game even begins. School pride is about staying after the game and singing the alma mater, no matter whether you win or whether you lose.

School pride creates a bond between an individual and the school. This bond spans the course of a lifetime. It can be measured by the sense of pride that you feel when your high school wins a state championship twenty years after you graduate. It is the joy that you feel when you have a child attending and playing for your alma mater. It is a connection that can be both deep and meaningful.

School Recognition

Teachers and schools rarely receive positive media attention. When you see a story on those subjects, it is typically negative in nature. However, the coverage of athletics is the exact opposite. Sport sells! Having a successful athlete and/or team will likely give you positive media coverage within and around your community. While a teacher with a successful academic program will garner little to no attention, a team with a 10–0 record will be followed closely by the media and the community.

This type of notoriety is celebrated. It makes the school attractive to families looking to move into a community that values an outstanding athletics program. It also puts fans in the stands, which translates to more money being poured into the athletics department. This allows coaches and athletic directors the freedom to purchase equipment and training tools that may continue to give their athletes a competitive advantage.

Most schools do not want to have an athletic team. Instead, they want to have an athletic program. A program is continuously successful year after year. They build and nurture talent at an early age. Programs garner the most athletic success and, thus, attention. A good player at a well-known program will have a better chance of receiving a scholarship than a good player on a lesser known team.

Student Motivation

Athletics can serve as a powerful academic motivator for athletes who would otherwise underperform in the classroom. There are many students who see school as secondary to athletics. As adults, we realize that academics are of far greater importance than athletics. However, as teenagers, the academic side was probably not the center of our focus as it should have been.

The good news is that schools require their student-athletes to maintain a certain grade average (typically 60% or above) to participate in athletics. Many students stay in school and keep their grades up only because of their desire to compete in athletics. This is a sad reality but may also provide the greatest reason for keeping athletics in schools.

Athletics also serves as motivation for staying out of trouble. Athletes know that if they get in trouble, there is a reasonable chance that they will be suspended for games or parts of a game. This does not mean that every athlete makes the best decision every time. However, the prospect of playing athletics has been a powerful deterrent from making wrong choices for many student-athletes.

Essential Life Skills

Athletics provides athletes with several benefits including the acquisition of valuable life skills that will benefit them throughout their life. These skills are more beneficial than the games themselves, and their impact can be powerful and transcending. Some of these skills include:

  • Effort - This is defined as giving it everything you have in both practice and games. Effort can overcome the lack of talent in many cases. A player who gives 100% effort is said to have heart. Life lesson: Give your best no matter what and you cannot question yourself in the end.
  • Hard work - It is the preparation you put into becoming a better player before the game is played. This includes strength and endurance training, individual practice time, and film study. Life lesson: Preparation is the key to success. If you work hard to prepare, mistakes are less likely to occur.
  • Self-disciplineIt is the ability to maintain and carry out the role the coaches have determined within the game plan. This includes understanding your own individual strengths and weaknesses. Life lesson: Stay on task to get the job done no matter what distractions there may be.
  • TeamworkThis is the ability to work with others to complete a goal successfully. A team will only be successful if each individual fulfills their role. Life lesson: Working with others is an essential part of being successful. Doing your own thing can be detrimental and lead to many problems.
  • Time management - This is the ability to fulfill all obligations including practice, homework, family, friends, etc. Life lesson: You must be well-balanced and adept at handling all aspects of your life so that you are not overwhelmed and stressed out.