Learning About Life Through Sports: Why All Students Should Participate in High School Athletics

Learning About Life Through Sports: Why All Students Should Participate in High School Athletics

February 20, 2019 Off By Tammy Schneider

When a teenager is attempting to complete his or her high school years, it seems as though there is just not enough time in the day to accomplish many of the goals he or she desires. Some students struggle through remedial classes, barely getting by, while at the same time other students may have a full load of honors or advanced placement courses. Whether your child is the first type of student, the last type of student, or any other type in between, he or she is feeling the same amount of stress as the other. The idea of creating a schedule to complete all of the tasks received throughout the day seems nearly impossible to the average student. How is one supposed to balance homework in every class (of which each individual teacher feels is the most important class of the day), a social life, driving lessons, eating, and of course, that insignificant activity known as sleep? Then, there is sports. The activity that every guidance counselor attempts to get each one of his or her counselees interested in. With everything else for high school students to worry about, how does anybody expect them to find time for two to three more hours of practice or games per day? It seems like a lot to ask, however, as a high school teacher, I have seen sports have a bigger impact of some students than any other part of their high school careers. While the competition is fun and rewarding for many, it is the life lessons that come from sports that truly make high school athletics such an integral part in the physical and mental growth of our youth.

Responsibility, Structure, and Good Grades:

High school student athletes learn how to use their time wisely more than students who do not participate in sports. There is a structure that is embedded in the student athlete that is not normally seen in the average student. While there is less time in the day to complete all of the required tasks, many people have seen the students pick their grades up during the sports season. One reason for a grade increase for some is that, in most cases, there is a minimum grade point average requirement in order to even be eligible to play. This rule forces the students to concentrate more in class and actually be responsible for maintaining their grades in order to play the sport(s) they love. I always received better grades when I was in season, and I attribute this to my schedule being set for me. There was no downtime to get lost in doing nothing, and then realizing that it was time to go to bed, forgetting about the homework that was due the next day. My schedule during sports season was structured: Wake up, go to school, go to practice or game, eat dinner, do homework, talk on the phone with my friends (if there was time), go to bed. That may seem a bit extreme, but I loved it. Baseball season was the most exciting time of the year for me, and I always knew that on weekends I could hang out with friends.

Friends with the Same Motives:

One of the biggest advantages about being a member of a high school sports team is the relationships built with teammates. High school is usually a time when even the most well-behaved children experiment, and at some point, they get themselves in trouble. Almost every kid goes through a period of rebellion when he hangs out with the "wrong crowd", eventually causing him to challenge authority and make a few mistakes. A parent's hope is that the mistakes are kept to a minimum and that they do not break any laws. By playing sports, each athlete can rely on his teammates to keep each other out of trouble. They all have the same motives: stay eligible and do not anger the coach by getting in trouble for doing something stupid. I am still friends with some of the people I played baseball with in high school, and that is because there is a bond formed that is not easily broken. For over two months, you literally spend every single day together and that leaves you no choice but to befriend one another. You end up looking out for each other, making sure your teammates are getting good grades, staying out of trouble, and if there is a situation that could lead to trouble, you know your teammates have your back. I currently coach baseball and basketball at the high school in which I teach, and one of the first things I say to each team at the beginning of the season is "for the next couple months, you are family. Make sure you look out for each other." Because of that bond, it is extremely rare for a student athlete to get in trouble.

Life Lessons:

What may be the most important reason for a student to play a sport in high school is that it may teach the student more about life than any course he or she can take during the school day. These lessons go beyond addition, subtraction, Shakespeare, the Civil War or the Periodic Table of Elements. They will not help them with their homework or give them scores to get in to college. However, they will teach them how to handle situations that will inevitably pop up in the years to come. The first lesson is that it teaches the students to work as a group for the common good of the team. It is human nature to be selfish, but when you look at a successful high school sports program, each member is working together to accomplish the team's goals. If the team fails, then the team takes the blame, not an individual. These are important lessons for the students to learn. Many high school students, and people in general, will make excuses for failure, oftentimes blaming it on somebody else; however, a sports team does not allow that to happen.

Another life lesson that can be learned is how to win and lose in a humble manner. In life, there will be times when unexpected failures occur. This could be in school, at work, or even at a party with friends. Being able to accept these failures and find a way to fix them is a way to make the student athlete a better person. Bosses do not expect their employees to be perfect, but they do expect them to admit and rectify any errors they make. This is the same in sports. A coach does not expect his players to be perfect, but he does expect them to practice in the areas where they are deficient. This work ethic, instilled by the coaches, will go a long way in making the student athlete a hot commodity when he or she enters the business world. While accepting losses is important, the way one handles himself after a win is mutually important. High school sports teaches the athlete to be gracious and humble after a win. This involves shaking hands with the other team, while wishing them luck in the future. The ability to swallow your pride and accept defeat, while wishing the winning team luck may seem insignificant, but it forces the student athlete to learn how to handle a loss. In this case, it may be an athletic event, but in the future that skill will help if the student receives a poor grade in college, or maybe he gets passed over for a promotion later on in life. These skills of accepting defeat, congratulating the opponent, then working harder and going back to the drawing board to come up with a more successful plan for the future are all invaluable in the growth of the student athlete as a human being.

Despite the stress involved in undertaking a sport, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. High school Athletic Director/guidance counselor Wayne Mones believes that "having a passion in anything positive enhances a student's ability to grow as a person." Being both the Athletic Director and a guidance counselor, Mr. Mones is able to see firsthand the positive effect sports has on his students. He tries to convince every one of his students to participate in a sport. He says that sports also opens up more opportunities for the students when they are trying to take the next step in their education. Colleges look for extracurricular activities when deciding who to select to attend their establishment, and participation in sports proves to the college that the applicant has learned many important skills like building relationships, making commitments, working as a team, and balancing a hectic schedule. These are all qualities that contribute to a person becoming a successful adult. So, if you are a parent of a high school student, talk to your child about participating in athletics. Do not take sports away as a punishment, as it may have the opposite effect on your child. For many athletes, their high school coaches act as their mentors well into their adult lives. If you persuade your child to play a sport, you will find that he or she will develop into a respectful, committed, and humble adult.