Roughly 8 million high schoolers participate in interscholastic sports. Of these student-athletes, only 6% will be admitted into NCAA universities, and even fewer will become professional athletes. That leaves 7.5 million high school athletes to grasp and hone other skills beyond the ones they learned during their time in interscholastic sports. Instead of becoming professional athletes, they can use the experiences and core values developed through athletics to better their future.
Interscholastic sports can enrich a student’s life in more ways than enhancing their physical skills; they can teach life lessons and strong core values that will enhance students’ futures and lives. The terms “student-athlete”, and “teacher-coach” are hyphenated and ordered in a specific way for a purpose. It represents the prioritization of education and its symbiotic relationship with sports.
Knowledge, attitudes, experiences, and skills necessary to become productive and responsible members of society can be gained from interscholastic sports. Techniques and opportunities to teach citizenship comes in numerous methods, such as choosing a team captain.
Allowing student-athletes to choose a captain can teach them how to select a leader that will be respected, while simultaneously teaching the captain how to represent their fellow teammates. On the other hand, teacher-coaches can opt to select a captain. This pushes the player out of their comfort zone and awards this individual with more responsibility.
Another method is to encourage the student-athletes to be citizens of the school and partake in non-athletic activities. A citizen simply isn’t a title; it is a responsibility and a right to be active within any strata of community in a positive way. Student-athletes who are involved in their school and their community continue those patterns as they grow.
Community Service is not only a part of being a good citizen, but it’s also how communities grow stronger together. It is about helping neighbors as well as promoting who people are in society. Student-athletes who serve in the community are setting an example for everyone to see. It isn’t a duty, it is a responsibility and privilege to give back. Teacher-coaches should focus on cultivating a habit of giving back, so that players may grow up grounded and less self-centered.
Sportsmanship and Fair Play
What could be considered the most important of traits that can be learned from interscholastic sports, sportsmanship will come, first and foremost, from the example set by the coach. Adults in leadership positions need to “walk the talk” and exemplify what it means to play fair.
Learning how to respect and care for rules, officials and opponents will directly relate to how student-athletes treat people and jobs in the future. As Chris Evert, a former world-class professional tennis player had to say, “If you can react the same way to winning and losing, that is a big accomplishment. That quality is important because it stays with you for the rest of your life.”
Success doesn’t depend on winning. If a student-athlete operates under this delusion, they may be more likely to engage in cheating or poor behavior in the name of winning.
Wellness and Healthy Habits
Interscholastic sports are a prime vehicle for displaying positive body language and conveying a healthy lifestyle. A student-athlete’s welfare is at the core of high school athletic experiences. It is important to introduce players to a healthy environment that they may emulate in the future. Promoting an addiction-free, active daily routine will empower students to make healthy future choices.
Leadership and Decision-Making Skills
It is important to offer student-athletes the opportunities to be leaders and make their own decisions. They need to learn leadership is not about making decisions for themselves or being revered, it is about being selfless and setting the best example. Captain selection does more than help to promote citizenship, it puts student-athletes in leadership and decision-making roles that are important and real.
This core value is for more than the players, however. Offering resources to promote positive leadership from parents and teachers helps spread the positive influence into homes and classrooms. Learning doesn’t only occur in one environment, but instead, it can take place daily at home, in school, or on the field.
Independence, Self-Reliance, and “Tough Love”
The sports experience is a positive means of achieving self-reliance. The biggest obstacle may not be the student-athlete, the coaches, the sport, or the opponent; it is parents.
Instead of directly speaking with faculty and coaches when there are concerns, parents should teach their kids to communicate effectively. Listening and offering advice on proper communication and expression is a major skill that can be used for the rest of their lives. Allowing for the growth of independence can assist student-athletes to become more mature and take accountability for decisions and choices.
“Tough love” is considered invaluable because it introduces adversity and direct honesty into a young person’s life on a scale they can affect. It is firm, insistent, and honest advice or thoughts from a respected elder that come from a place of love and passion to urge the student-athlete to face certain realities and overcome them.
Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration program specializes in developing interscholastic Athletic Directors, building on the students’ passion for serving young student-athletes and running a highly-successful athletic department. Ohio University is a pioneer in sports education. By establishing the first academic program in the field of sports administration, this online program is recognized today as the premier professional training program for candidates seeking careers in the sports industry.
National Federation of State High School Association, “Fundamentals of Coaching”
Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, Inc., ” Pillars of Educational Athletics”
ESPN, “Best Coaches Teach More Than Sports”
Global Sports Development, ” Benefits of School-Based Sports”
NCAA, “Probability of Competing Beyond High School”
National Federation of State High School Associations, “High School Participation Increases for 25th Consecutive Year”