"I'd rather deal with them on the field or in the gym than at 2 a.m. in a cornfield." -Jim Richardson, Grand Meadow, Minnesota's assistant wrestling coach and police chief in a great but sad article by Andy Staples of SI.com.
The article is about the drastic cutbacks in funding for HS sports due to the current downturn in the economy. In fact, many districts are in the process of cutting programs altogether in order to save a few dollars. While we are almost always in favor of a smaller government, it is our opinion that school sport programs have an incredible, some could argue immeasurable, ROI and therefore should be retained at all costs.
The first reason sports programs are of the upmost importance is due to the reason highlighted in the quote above and discussed throughout the article. That is, kids in sports are NOT kids on the streets. Not only does practice literally keep them occupied for 2-4 hours a day, but coaches have the rare opportunity to display first hand that discipline and hard work will lead to success. While in theory teacher can deliver the same message in the classroom, many at-risk students simply have no desire to achieve in that arena as accomplishments are praised nearly as much as successes on the field. Whether or not that is good is another debate but the hope is when these children mature they will draw on their experiences and successes on the playing field and apply that same work ethic in life.
The other huge benefit of high school sports which wasnt even mentioned in the article, is the relationship with general health. School sports teams are one of the few ways kids stay physically active. Without that social construct in place, do we really think they are going to work out on their own?? Unfortunately in the digital age this is highly unlikely. Considering the fact that obesity and type II diabetes are already a big enough problem in this country, doesnt this just make it worse? Sadly though, something tells me the local school district chairman who is charged with the uneviable task of balancing his budget doesnt really care about a couple of extra fat kids.
There are other negative consequences as well, like a potential GOAT athlete never taking up a sport because his/her school doesnt offer it or kids missing out on the simple experiences of being part of a group of individuals working towards a common goal. Overall though the main point stands, that the benefits far outweight the costs when it comes to school sports programs.