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Due to budget cuts, parental and administrator concerns, many are voicing their concerns over athletics at the high school level. People feel that athletics takes up quite a large amount of a schools budget and cannot justify letting classroom teachers go and keeping athletics going. There are also many people who believe that banning high school sports will help students focus more towards their education. However, having played soccer at Yuba City High School, three out of my four years, I strongly believe that athletics are a key part of high school curriculum. An effectively run program can have a very positive effect on students. They can develop academic skills, develop character traits and learn certain skills that cannot be taught from sitting in a classroom. Sometimes, it can keep a kid from dropping out.
One of the main points of argument is that athletes don't achieve the same academic standards as non athletes. But I think that this is dependent on the kind of requirements set in place by schools and athletic departments. If you set high standards, athletes will meet those standards. If you set low standards, athletes will do the minimum work required to get by. Currently, at Yuba City High School, a student needs a 2.0 GPA (which is the equivalent of having all C's) and can have one F in order to play sports. I feel that this is unacceptable because it is such a low requirement and many students will only try to settle for these requirements. The GPA should be 2.5 and no F's should be allowed. If school districts were to raise the requirements needed to play sports, we would not have to worry about academics interfering with athletics. A students' education always comes first. Playing sports in high school is a privilege and students should not be taking advantage of the very low requirements needed to play. Having played sports in high school, I know of many student athletes who, in their minds, feel that getting that 2.0 GPA is good enough for them, as long as they are able to participate in their sport. Increasing the standards would require the students to work and try harder so they can play sports. Do school districts really care about having low requirements to participate in sports? I personally feel that the school district does not care for the students. They are constantly worrying about how we score on State Tests and yet the requirements to play sports are astonishingly low. According to Dr. Bruce J. Bukowski, research was conducted that compared the requirements for athletic eligibility among 125 randomly selected high schools across 48 states. They found that schools that set high standards for their athletes will find that athletes will rise to that challenge. However, schools that set low standards do it because they feel it is a way to keep kids from dropping out of school. In the movie, Coach Carter, which is based on a true story set in a high school in Richmond, California, the academic eligibility standards were set very low and most of the students weren't even able to meet those standards. Yet, they were allowed to continue to play because they were having a winning season. When the new coach arrived, he took the initiative and locked the basketball court until the athletes raised their academic levels, despite an undefeated season. He also set higher standards of academic performance and insisted that all players must sit in the front row of each classroom. When pushed to perform, the players rose to the challenge and were able to continue their season. In the movie, The Blindside, a story based on the life of Michael Oher, now a Baltimore Ravens player in the National Football League, Michael Oher is homeless and is taken in by a family. At the high school that he attends, he is a superb defensive player, but because the Division I schools are coming to recruit him he needs to meet their requirements. He has a GPA of 1.7 but in order to be accepted at college, he must have a GPA of 2.5. The family then gets a tutor to help Michael meet the requirements to attend college. After intense study sessions and by the time he is ready to graduate from high school, he has achieved a GPA of 2.51. High schools will be doing a big favor to the athletes if they align their GPA requirements with those required by colleges. So should the athletes want to pursue their sports beyond high school, they are already prepared.
Participating in high schools sports can help develop a student's character. They learn to work as a team, be more responsible and create habits that are required for success in daily life. As the students learn to work together, they will also learn about overcoming obstacles and problems, as well as determination and perseverance. These are skills that cannot be taught through books but through participation in sports and from which students can only benefit from. Also, being active in sports can help boost mental health and self esteem (Hartmann, Dr. Douglas). Participating in sports requires you to mentally challenge yourself which can help you focus harder and overcome challenges later in life. A coach can be an incredible influence on his athletes. He can be a great role model by showing good sportsmanship and respect to officials, team members, and opponents. When a coach makes mistakes, he should apologize to his players and he should be able to explain what should have been the appropriate behavior. These are great life lessons for his athletes. They can learn to win with honor and lose with honor. When I played high school soccer, my coach always used the acronym "WWI," as we ran on to the field to start a game. The acronym stood for, "Win with Integrity."
Some people believe that high school sports are not a vital part of the education process, instead, a distraction. Some parents and administrators feel that students are focusing more on sports than their education. They argue that there is no longer a balance between academics and athletics. However, according to a questionnaire I asked, Deputy Superintendent Baldev Johal of Yuba City Unified School District to fill out, he believes that high school sports are a vital part of the education process in which they help develop an all around student. He also feels that, "Sports provide key life skills such as playing by the rules, team work, hard work and perseverance." The same questionnaire was also filled by a former sophomore soccer coach and freshman basketball coach. Both of their responses also highlighted the fact that a good coach will help provide life skills and life lessons while building skill in the sport.
As many parents and administrators have expressed, there are a few negative effects of high school sports. With high schools traveling far for games, students are coming home late and aren't getting enough time to study. Students are more likely to drop elective classes, which can be important for college applications, to make up for some of their other work. High school students are also at a high risk for injury because of the intense competitiveness between schools. According to CDC, "High school athletes account for an estimated 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor's visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations annually (Streich, Michael)." There are also concerns about student athletes looking for performance enhancing drugs and getting peer pressured into partying and alcohol abuse with team members. I feel that this can only happen where it is allowed. If athletes know that the school has a zero-tolerance policy against performance enhancing drugs and alcohol abuse, they are more likely to do what is right. When I played soccer at Yuba City High School, I witnessed students who were part of a sports team, become peer pressured into trying different drugs and alcohol. However, the coach found out, informed the parents and threatened the boys with expulsion from the team if they were found to be participating in these wrongful acts. I think he even got the parents to agree to random drug test for their athlete through the athletic director.
Many advocates for recreational sports feel that they don't interfere with school and don't require grades and they should take the place of high school sports. Unless rules for the recreational teams change, I think it is much better to continue to have high school sports. In recreational teams, parents think that they can have a lot more say in what goes on. During elementary and middle school, I played soccer and basketball on recreational teams. There were times when parents had more of a say on how much play time their son got. There were parents who were really able to influence the coaches. Often, the coaches are volunteers and haven't had a lot of training. From my experience in high school sports, parents tend to respect and accept the authority of the coach and don't feel that they have a lot of say in how and what the coach does. If they have any complaints or concerns they are able to talk to the athletic director but are not able to directly influence the coach. Since athletes can get scholarships to go to college, they have to be able to exhibit their skills at a high competitive level, which high school sports provide.
Despite all of the negative connotations of high school sports I still think it can be a very positive experience for an athlete. Participation in sports can help develop leadership skills, promote skills needed for team work, and elevate the academic status of students who might not ordinarily make the effort. Their passion for their sport might even keep students from dropping out of high school. Recreational sports are just that, recreational and cannot take the place of high school sports. Banning high school sports outright is not necessary, what we really need are stronger rules about participation that are enforced.