School sports: the first big cut

by David Safier

Last year I wrote a series of posts half seriously, half facetiously suggesting we should cut all competitive sports from high schools so we can put more money in the classroom.

Now I'm absolutely serious.

Every superintendent and school board should have the courage to say, "We'll cut everywhere else before we touch the classroom." Teachers in their classes with their students are where the rubber meets the road. To overstate matters a bit, everything else exists just to make the classroom function as well as possible.

I used to infuriate my principals by telling them they served me, not the other way around, because their job was to do everything they could to make me as effective as possible in the classroom. When they looked perturbed, I told them, of course, I served the students, who are at the top of the pecking order. The teachers are next, then the support staff and the school administrators. The district administrators are at the bottom of the heap. They're important, of course, but the further away you are from the students, who are the only reason any of us had jobs, the less central your function.

Within the school, competitive sports are the furthest away from the classroom. They're a frill, an add on, a distraction. No European or, so far and I know, Asian nation puts sports in a similar position in the schools. At most, those nations tolerate informal, recreational sports clubs. Our competitive sports border on the professional in the time, money and effort we put into them.

So cut the after school sports programs. No Friday night games. No coaches or trainers. No manicured sports fields. No team uniforms. Until we fund our schools properly, put the whole program in cold storage.

Of course, it won't happen. Any superintendent who dared touch sports would be tarred, feathered and run out of town. We love that stuff.

But that's just why we should do it. The public really doesn't see or feel the pain when we cut staff and supplies and school maintenance. But maybe they'll sit up and pay attention when something as visible and their beloved high school sports teams are no longer around to entertain them in the stadiums and the sports pages.

So it's a twofer. We save money we need in the classroom, and we wake up the sleeping populace to the reality that our schools are dangerously underfunded.

8 responses to “School sports: the first big cut

  1. Excellent Blog every one can get lots of information for any topics from this blog nice work keep it up.

  2. The only caveat I’d add is that football does seem to bring in revenue, at least the school my kids attended. It’s a 5a school in the valley. Perhaps they should be forced to survive on the revenue that affords. Then again, if you begin cutting girls programs instead of boys you will have trouble. It’s a dicey issue for school politicians….er superintendents.

  3. 1) If I HAVE TO keep ONLY one teacher, either the math teacher or the football coach, I’ll keep the math teacher.
    2) The european model doesn’t work here because the kids cannot go anywere (clubs, library, etc) by themselves
    3)Agree with ccburro: PE should have priority over competitive sports. PE should be mandatory K to 12!!

  4. The problem is not competitive high school sports. Virtually all of the finest schools with general college preparatory academic goals require each student to participate in sports — I’m speaking of independent schools. And while participation is not required in small town and village schools, nearly the same effect is achieved naturally, even if the academic standard is not so high.

    They do this at a relatively low cost in coaches, uniforms, facilities, media reps, etc., because they don’t conceive of their sports programs as feeders to college and university sports teams, which in turn have lost any vestige of amateurisim because they are structured almost exclusively around and fed by the chimaerical promise of millionaire careers in the big leagues.

    There are very valuable consequences for sensible participation by all young people in sports, not only for the individual’s physical health and sense of community, but for the overall well-being of their proximate sociel millieu. Objections that occasionally individuals may be constitutionally unable to participate are valid, and wise school administration can find a way to accommodate these young people in a way which is neither punitive nor stigmatizing, but which also encourages belonging to the peer group.

  5. Ideally, schools should continue to have physical education–especially with America’s obesity problem. What I think is the problem is the 20+ hours a week that some students spend on competitive team sports when some of these same students are barely getting by in learning reading, math, history, science, etc. Competitive team sports are good for developing teamwork, focus, etc., but they should not be done to the detriment of main purpose of school.

  6. I have been told that the Ganado School District (a public school in Apache County and on the Navajo Reservation) Is cutting all sports except varsity level teams) This is due to the cuts from the state and thir financial obligations to pay for the huge gym they built a few years ago.

    Extra-curricular activities are an important part of education. I recall from my college days that one of the best indicators of post-secondary success was the participation in extra curricular activities such as sports, music, debate, drama, etc. Involvement in these activities is also what keeps some kids in school, without it, they would drop out. I oppose the complete gutting of sports, music, drama, etc.

    For some proof that cutting sports may be wrong, Russell Pearce would agree with you.

  7. David–

    Check out the weblink to the documentary/advocacy organization “2 million minutes”.

    The premise behind this documentary is that each child has approximately 2 million minutes of time during the 4 years of high school (9-12 grades) and the documentary compares how students in the United States, India, and China spend those precious 2 million minutes which are going to prepare them for survival when they graduate. One of many points that came through in this documentary is the huge emphasis and time commitment devoted to competitive sports in American high schools, whereas in India and China those hours are spent studying/learning. Who is going to be better prepared upon graduation for a career? The documentary asks the question–Which country is going to be more likely to produce the scientists, innovaters, inventors, and engineers needed for economic prosperity? Whereas here, the athletes are revered in high school, the documentary presented a Chinese village in which the high school math whiz [academic achievement] was revered.

    Please check out this website and the documentary.

  8. Kudos to you, David. Even though I’m a high school tennis coach, I agree with you. Too much emphasis is put on competitive sports on the high school level. Most of the space on a high school compund is athletic facilities. You’re right about European schools. They have no competitive sports only sports clubs outside of school. They only emphasize academics.
    Good Luck convincing the parents though.