How much can $235,000 buy? In the hands of an American public high school, it could be used to buy more than three thousand textbooks. Or almost two hundred brand-new MacBooks for the classroom. Or to pay four teachers for a whole year. Or it could be used to buy a Jumbotron for a football stadium. That is exactly what my school district allowed $235,000 for. (Delaney) At the same meeting the school board voted to approve this project, they also voted to settle a lawsuit of $210,000 with a former student at the very same high school for which they just approved the Jumbotron.
The student had been inappropriately touched by a football coach, who never served any jail time for his infractions with multiple students and staff. (Delaney) This example of two-facedness joins the ranks of ways football and other high school sports harm students. Sports suck up scare educational funding, are often dangerous to players, and rarely offer equal opportunities to all students. High school sports, especially football, suck up obscene amounts of money that could be used to support more educational projects and supplies.
Often, the funding of school sports comes at the expense of other school programs. Manatee High School, home of the Jumbotron, did not hold a musical in their theater program because it “cost too much”. My school, in the same district, is suffering problems because we don’t have enough textbooks for multiple courses, and other classes have textbooks that are falling apart at the seams or are for outdated curriculum. But, at least Manatee High School has a Jumbotron that’s only used for a handful of nights a year!
Ernest Singleton shut down sports teams in his struggling Texas school district in 2012, and, in doing so, saved the county $150,000 dollars in one year. He also observed a thirty percent increase in course passing rates, better behavior from students, and more parent involvement. (Ripley) Schools are meant to educate students, and academics should be a school’s main focus. However, schools are unnecessarily pumping cash into athletic programs.
Even if sports have some positive benefits to students, such as discouraging truancy, they should not be a detriment to the true purpose of school, which is academic education. In September of 2014, TIME magazine had a cover story about the dangers of football to students, focussing on the story of 16-year-old Chad Stover, who experienced a traumatic brain injury on the field. After he hit his head on the ground during a tackle, a coach asked him if he was okay to go back out. Chad said he was, and returned to the game. While the team was lining up for play, Chad’s legs gave out.
He died on the field. (Gregory, 34) In the NFL, one third of players will develop brain diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, but the effect is far greater on the much younger boys who play in high school and college sports. Studies of college football players show that they experience significant changes in brain matter and volume, affecting their cognitive function (Gregory, 35). A study conducted by Virginia Tech examined kids of seven and eight years old getting hits comparable to those one might experience in a car crash (Gregory, 35).
Football isn’t the only sport that experiences high concussion rates. Girls and boys soccer as well as boys’ wrestling also have more than ten recorded concussions per 10,000 high school players (Gregory, 37). And that isn’t to mention any other sports related injuries, such as those to the feet and knees, that commonly plague student players. These injuries aren’t as long lasting as those to the brain, but can be costly to students’ health and finances nonetheless. Granted, there are some benefits to sports in high schools. However, who is really receiving these benefits?
Despite many claims to the contrary, most high schools do not offer equal opportunities for students in sports. Participating in sports often has hidden costs to students and their families, such as transportation, insurance, and mandatory physical examinations. Not all students can pay for these expenses, and cannot participate in sports. Kevin Kniffin, a researcher at Cornell University, claims that those who played high school sports go on to have better pay and more success in their adult careers. However, which students are reaping these benefits?
The most popular high school sport is undoubtedly football, but when was the last time anyone heard about a girls’ high school football team? Kniffin also claims that hockey players are found in high numbers on Wall Street (Casey, 1). This is also a sport that does not have girls teams. In fact, a lot of schools don’t even have hockey teams. The point is, the ‘benefits’ that sports offer to students are rarely extended to all students. Additionally, these benefits, such as leadership and teamwork skills, can be fostered in the classroom or other extracurriculars much more easily and accessibly than on the field, rink, or mat.
Career and technical student organizations such as TSA, FBLA, HOSA, FFA and FCCLA will help students prepare for their future careers much more than sports will, since these clubs are more specialized to the fields these students will enter, such as technology and medicine. These clubs often focus on teamwork and leadership skills, by having students work in groups for competitions (just like a team preparing for a championship) and offering leadership roles in the form of officer teams (much like captains of a team.
Plus, these clubs often only take a few hours a week of a student’s studying and personal time, as opposed to the ten or more hours sports practices and games usually require. Not to mention the reality that students are far more likely to find a career in business or communication than professional sports. Many proponents of sports in high schools claim that taking sports out of high schools will mean that many students will be unable to participate in private sports clubs and teams because of their expenses.
However, this argument overlooks the glaring fact that by placing so much of a school’s attention and funding on to sports programs, the same thing has happened to many other fields of study! Young musical prodigies have to receive private classes outside of school because its orchestra program has been cut. Students interested in dance join expensive and exclusive troupes outside of school because there isn’t a dance instructor at their school.
When schools cut elective courses, students don’t have a chance to learn about what they are interested in. Further, since they cannot take these classes, they have a much smaller chance of getting into a college program for these studies since they have no classes for it on their transcripts. Maybe if schools refocused some of the money and attention placed into sports into other programs, there were would be more equal opportunities for students to learn about what they are interested in, no matter what field it falls in!
Now, not only will athletes get to have a chance to pursue their passion, but so will the actors, the musicians, the dancers. A solution to all of the problems sports present does not require the elimination of sports programs in schools. It simply requires that the money and attention placed into athletics be redistributed, so that other school programs receive the same benefits. For every potential athlete out there, there’s a potential artist or scientist too, and they deserve the same opportunities. Less Jumbotrons, more… everything else.