High School, Sports, and Controversy
Which is more significant? The student with a 4.0 GPA, or a wide receiver who scores four touchdowns in a state championship game? Neither person is more accomplished than the other for attaining such a goal. These accomplishments are at such different ends of the spectrum. However, in almost all non-professional sports, athletes must meet certain academic requirements to hold their position on a team.
This holds true in high school, as students must maintain a certain GPA to participate in extracurricular activities. In college, in order to hold team status, the athlete must have a combination of credit hours and GPA. In the professional arena, athletes are subject to rules and regulations as wells as periodic physicals and drug testing. Imagine what it would have been like if Michael Jordan failed to meet his grade or credit requirements throughout his college career. That is right; the fans of North Carolina would have not had the thrill of witnessing one of the greatest basketball players that has ever touched the courts. Looking at the other end of the spectrum, if Robert E.
Kahn did not pursue electrical engineering at the City College of New York in 1960, and an M.A. and a Ph.D. at Princeton, he might not have proceeded to change the world with the invention of the Internet (Dennis).
Both Michael Jordan and Robert E. Kahn are accomplished men. They did not “mess up” their college careers; therefore, athletes and non-athletes should be held to the same standard. Is it because the way they walk, the way they talk? Right or wrong athletes seem to be held at a higher esteem than non-athlete ven beginning before high school, but it really begins when they hit high school. Why is this popularity and social status swing so defined for athletes in high school? In general, students like pep rallies and teams and clubs; therefore, it is natural that students will gravitate to games and sporting events to show school spirit.
These athletes are the leaders of the rallies – they are the players on the field bringing the crowds. When an athlete scores a touchdown or a goal, students feel they did it for the school and they are the hero. Should these high school athletes be held at higher standards than non-athletes? No, athletes should be held at the same standard as all other high school students – the exact same standards. They should not be given slack. Since they are looked up upon by so many, they certainly should not be given lower standards.
When they wear their letter jackets, or their uniforms, they should wear them with honor showing pride for their school. With respect to what is expected of athletes in the classroom, there should be absolutely no distinction between the athlete and any other student. There should be no exceptions given to athletes, just as none are given to students who participate in any other extracurricular activity, grades have to come first. Most parents send their children to school for academics first and then on the field or to band practice. The fact that most athletes devote more time partaking in sporting activities rather than focusing on their education may ultimately have a negative impact on their livelihood.
Academics have to be the primary focus in order to maintain a consistent standard for the teachers to enforce. When too much emphasis is placed on sports, it dangerously tips the scale and detracts from other very important accomplishments, such as service projects, national honor society, musical chairs, valedictorian, speech, drama, science club, etc. These other major accomplishments tend to take a back seat and need to be pushed to the forefront and acknowledged with as much excitement as that game that earned the school a state title or fifty-thousand dollars in revenue. When Scott Pingel, the head football coach, was asked, “Is it right that an athlete receives more recognition than non-athletes?” he replied, “I definitely don’t think that you should measure an athlete’s performance any greater than an academic performance.” Who is it that does this measuring of appreciation? Mrs.
Farinella, a teacher, supports the need for a balance. When asked, “Do you think it is right that athletic success is praised more than academic success?” She replied firmly, “I don’t think it is right that one gets higher praise than the other. I think academic success should get higher praise than athletic success.” If a middle ground is not found, many schools could potentially lose their credibility as a school that has something to offer everyone. What would happen to the credibility of a high school that put all of its emphasis was put on athletics and students were brought in mainly to play sports and hold those state championships? A school where curriculum was sub-par so that athletes could make the grades to pass so that they could play to win those state championships and get offers to colleges based on their athletic ability? Those schools would not survive.
And the students that were not athletes would likely never make it to college. This is where the school board needs to take the lead and balance what is recognized and measured as a true success of their institution and their students and staff. Teachers at effective schools openly believe that each kid has the raw requirements to be a successful student. In an everyday sense, this means that effective teachers make a mindful decision to give equal chances for all students to respond during class, provide considerate response to every student, and are willing to re-teach concepts that students have not understood. Teachers need to push their students with a helping and applauding hand.
On the flip side, there is more than the glory of being that popular athlete, going to rallies and sporting events. The positives can be countless including family bonding, inspiring school spirit, community participation, all the way to engaging cities, states and countries. Athletics can encourage sportsmanship, leadership, teamwork, cooperation, and time-management skills (Denhart, Vedder, and Villwock). If everything is kept in perspective and students do not let the hype go to their heads and the jocks do not become idols, sports in high school can be very instrumental in team building and general growth into adulthood. At Wando High School, the girls cross country team attended the All-American Cross Country Camp, which provided the girls with a great team-building environment (“Wando”).
High school athletes have to take it upon themselves, or seek support from another source, to help find a balance between playing the sport they love and engaging themselves in the classroom. Athletes have a great opportunity for team building and reaching out to the community to really make a difference. They have that leadership image, not only because they play sports, but generally, they are the stronger, fit students. This raises that question again, should they be held to a higher standard. It is a fine line, some schools have been known to hold their athletes to a higher standard and other schools let them slide, because they are athletes. It is a double-edged sword, which side is your child on and which school does he or she attend? Actually, individual families have multiple children that fall all over the spectrum when it comes to athletic and academic interests.
Now this same question arises within a household of siblings with different interests. Should some of these children be held to a higher standard within the same household? How well does that go over? Almost certainly not very well. High schools vary all over the United States. For example there are college preparatory, private, public sector, charter, magnet schools, etc. Many students are athletes, “According to the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 56% of U.S. high school students played on a sports team in 2005″ (“College”). In fact those who are athletes have a higher chance of achieving a college degree. In September 2005 the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published the report “What Is the Status of High School Athletes 8 Years after Their Senior Year?” In the study it was discovered that varsity-level athletes were more likely than non-athletes to have received some post-secondary education and more expected to have earned a bachelor’s degree (“College”). There is a reason athletes are called student athletes, because they are expected to be students before they can excel in athletics.
High school is meant to prepare its students for college, which in turn prepares them for their next transition into life outside of school. High school sports are big in the United States and can draw huge crowds. Why is that? One might say, “Perhaps Friday night football is an event, like church, that gathers parents, allows them to share information about their kids and school, and more effectively work together to improve their school”(Greene). There are many different fans that attend sporting events. Parents go to athletic events to watch their children with different venues. Some are very focused on their own child and only care what their child does and could care less about the rest of the team.
Others go to their kid’s games not to see them be the best or be the hero, but to watch them play the game they love and be a part of their school team. Then there are the true fans that just go to support the high school and the community. They just want to be part of the action. Of course, the students are a big part of the crowd. They are there to rally and cheer on their friends and their school team.
Sometimes it is purely a social event to meet with other students. Sports are generally healthy, good, clean social events. Then you have the kids who have never participated in a sporting event and have no interest in ever receiving a letter jacket or having a trophy in that glass case as you enter the foyer of the school. They have a different agenda for their high school career. Maybe it is academics.
Maybe they are the one who wants to make that valedictorian speech at graduation. Or maybe it is the girl whose dream is to play the part of Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady”. There could be the student who aspires to be President of the National Honor Society. These kids are truly living their dream and are not given any breaks. They are definitely not held to a lower standard.
As a matter of fact the valedictorian and the president of the national honor society are most certainly held to a higher standard. Here comes the really tough part, how can the system help kids that really never had a chance in life and maybe sports would be their only opportunity for success? Is this where the school brings in tutors to accommodate those athletes? What is the responsibility of the school system? Is it purely academics or is there a way to make it work so that every student is given that chance? Is a student punished and never allowed to play sports because he or she is just not smart enough to obtain that required grade point average? This is not an easy dilemma to resolve. There is nothing more beautiful and respectable than a humble team leader or game winner. But how can the school system take care of the student(s) who really needs that privilege, and assure the student remain unpretentious. Again, it starts with the school board.
Somehow they have to balance their “heroes”. Every student is a hero for their own accomplishments. It just has to be recognized – maybe not on the scoreboard or a letter on a jacket; but in some way celebrated. Students need to feel they are held at the same standard as the person who shares the locker next to them; not lower and not higher. It is tough enough in the outside world, so when that child enters those doors of that institution each day, he or she should feel that they are equal and have the exact same chances to succeed within those walls as the person that dresses out and hits that field and has that crowd of people cheering for them.
They should hear that same sense of cheering noise in their head from their teachers and staff members that truly want them to succeed. Hopefully, even those students, who never had a glimmer of hope for success, will feel like a “hero” when they celebrate their successes one little accomplishment at a time. It is apparent that high schools need to find a way to recognize both athletic and academic achievements equally. This can be done in a variety of ways. A school can award scholarship for students that go above and beyond in the classroom. A great example, my High School their De La Salle Scholarship (a $3,500 award) to students average at or above the ninetieth percentile on his National Achievement Tests and attain a 3.
6 Core Grade Point Average. This is a brilliant way to recognize and reward academically gifted students. Recognition given to students can be something as simple as naming a student at a pep rally or just a general assembly, whom attained the highest ACT score in the school. During a pep rally, that was meant to recognize the accomplishments of the state hockey team, senior Joey name was called out for receiving an almost perfect score of thirty-five on his ACT. It is even better when an entire school is recognized.
An example is, “Esparto Unified School District announced that Esparto High School has been selected by California Business for Education Excellence as one of 2,099 public schools in California to receive the title of 2013 Honor Roll school” (“Esparto”). It is quite ironic in how it takes a lot of effort to propel a team to a state title, while very little is needed to recognize a student for his or her academic feat.