If high schools suspend athletics …

by Steve Wyckoff on March 3, 2010

like most states around the country schools in Kansas are engaged in a conversation about making cuts, making changes, and saving money. Schools in Kansas have made substantial cuts already and the worst may be yet to come.

One of the discussions that is occurring involves the reduction or suspension of athletics and extracurricular activities. Many schools have already reduced the number of events, especially in middle school and junior high schools. Some superintendents believe that if athletic events were reduced or even eliminated that the public outcry from parents would force legislators to return schools to higher levels of funding.

While that may be true I have a different take on the potential consequences of reducing or suspending athletics and other extracurricular activities. It is my opinion that high schools are terminally obsolete in the 21st century. I further believe that athletics and other extracurricular activities are the glue that are holding high schools together. What we do in high schools systemically makes no sense. But a collection of arcane rules, many of which are built around athletic eligibility, are tolerated because students desire to participate in extracurricular activities.

If schools did suspend athletics there are ample opportunities for students to participate in those athletic events and activities outside the purview of schools.  Just look around, for the girls there is volleyball, basketball, softball and track even in most rural communities. For the boys there are leagues that exist in basketball, wrestling, baseball, and track. Not to mention swimming and tennis and a whole array of other activities. In fact in almost all communities there are programs that would meet the needs of virtually all kids, with the possible exception of high school football. And you can be assured that that need would be filled also.

So the unintended consequences. Perhaps once students experience those athletic events outside the purview of public schools they may not return to those events inside public schools. Many individuals; including parents, coaches, and participants, already complain about the antiquated rules established by the high school activities association. In addition, it is increasingly difficult for schools to find qualified teachers who are also qualified coaches. A conflict that does not exist if athletic events are not controlled by schools.

So be careful superintendents what you wish for. You may believe that the suspension of athletics might put intolerable pressure on the legislature. On the other hand, if your kids don’t have the motivational influence of athletics to keep them tolerating an obsolete educational system you may be getting bigger problems than your solving. –  Steve Wyckoff

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