School Sports: Why They’re A Problem

Emily Wiles, Writer

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Anyone who has been a student at Mason High School has likely noticed the trophy cases by the cafeteria, each one filled to the brim with awards. Displays like these are commonly found in schools nationwide. However, the issue with those displays is that every single one of those trophies is for athletic achievement, leaving no room or appreciation for anything else. There are no robotics prizes, no FFA plaques, no art awards, nothing. Nothing but tributes to our jock-obsessed culture. Simply put, most Americans make too big of a deal out of school sports, making them first priority when it comes to just about anything school-related. That needs to change now, and here’s why.


First off is the excessive spending associated with school sports. ‘The Case Against High School Sports,’ an article by Amanda Ripley on The Atlantic, discusses this very issue. At one point in this article, Ripley mentions Spelman College, an all-women’s school at which “about half of last year’s incoming class of some 530 students were obese or had high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, or some other chronic health condition that could be improved with exercise. Each year, Spelman was spending nearly $1 million on athletics—not for those students, but for the 4 percent of the student body that played sports.” In another part of the article, Ripley talks about Premont Independent School District in Texas, where, in the spring of 2012, football “cost about $1,300 a player. Math, by contrast, cost just $618 a student.” Mason High School isn’t innocent either. The football team here has three different uniforms: one for practice, one for home games, and one for away games. That’s a bit excessive. A practice uniform is understandable, but it’s unnecessary to have separate uniforms for home and away games. The money spent on those extra uniforms would be of more use somewhere else in the budget, such as teacher salaries. It’s quite clear that too much money is going down the athletic drain.


Secondly, the risk of both physical and psychological damage to young athletes is too great. The idea that kids can get seriously injured is nothing new to the American people, but they must remember just how severe things can get. According to Dan Doyle’s ‘23 Bad Things About Sports,’ “Burnout or injuries from sports can lead to neglect of physical fitness.” Sports are often played for the sake of getting fit, but there is no point in playing them if players are at risk for injuries that may cause the opposite effect. Damage of the psychological variety can be just as severe. I an article by Marika Lindholm, Ph.D. titled ‘The Pros and Cons of Youth Sports Aren’t Only Physical,’ Lindholm mentions psychological benefits as well as issues. One problem is that “Sports psychologists are in high demand because parents, coaches, teams and schools put undue pressure on young athletes to perform well every time they step on the field, court, or track.” It would not come as a surprise if many an athlete could relate. In addition, Lindholm mentions how “Our society’s obsession with sports puts a premium on athletes and athleticism, which can imbue young athletes with an inflated sense of self…There are too many instances of successful athletes who thought they were above the law or the norms of a school.” The latter statement is just as concerning as the former. Young athletes who feel they don’t need to abide by school rules may carry that mentality with them into adulthood and get into trouble, with the law or otherwise.


Finally, the plight of other school matters should be brought to everyone’s attention. Academics and the arts are grievously overshadowed because sports are given too much recognition. An article on Time Magazine’s website states, “Indeed, on a typical day, a visitor to the NCAA homepage will be overwhelmed by the articles (and videos) about athletics but will not find a single article (or video) about the academic achievements of the athletes.” In addition, a piece on The New York Times’ website says that “It is not lost on [students] that their local newspapers devote an entire section to high school sports and say nothing about the trials and travails of the AP English class.” Based on this evidence, it seems that many Americans are simply too invested in sports to care about anything else. The writer of the latter article also mentioned a possible start to a better, less sports-obsessed school: “If we want to build school spirit and teach kids about grit, hold a pep rally for the debate team. Those kids are training to rule the real world.


In a nutshell, money is being wasted, kids are getting hurt (both physically and psychologically), and other aspects of school (band, science programs, etc.) are severely overshadowed, all because of our country’s need for this organized warfare we call school sports. Now, should youth sports die? No. Despite the previous remarks, youth sports do in fact have some benefits; they encourage teamwork and physical fitness, among other things. However, that is no excuse for American schools to obsess over them to the point of disregarding the academics and arts programs that really matter. Humanity as a whole will evolve and improve by learning and applying the sciences and humanities, not watching football teams pummel each other to near oblivion. To counter this crying shame of America, schools should follow the European model of youth sports, allowing students to play in clubs without making competition a top priority. This way, schools can focus more on teaching values and skills that students are more likely to utilize later on. It’s about time that future artists and scientists got some more recognition, both here in Mason and across the nation.