I had a conversation recently that caused me to reflect on my beliefs about the role of sports and athletics in schools. What is the point of school sports? Why do so many staff and parent volunteers dedicate their time in this way? Where does competition and winning fit into middle school sports?
My perspective is formed from my role as a parent, educator, and coach. I have a 7 year old daughter who I’ve coached in soccer and hockey. I’ve coached school running teams, volleyball teams, basketball and badminton teams. I’ve coached community hockey teams ranging from initiation (4-5 year old kids) to Midget teams (16 and 17 year old young adults). I also serve as a director for Stony Plain Minor Hockey for Atom players (ages 8-9).
It is also important to remind ourselves that extracurricular sports serve as only one component of a well balanced athletic program. In my opinion, a strong student athletic development model consists of so many elements. For example, both structured and non structured intramural programming, playground games, free play, school teams, strong Physical Education programming, Daily Physical Activity etc. all contribute to the physical and emotional health of our kids.
I feel very fortunate that at Blueberry School we provide opportunities for literally hundreds of students at most grade levels to participate in a variety of extracurricular sports. We have an extremely dedicated team of teacher volunteers and parent volunteers who work together to provide so many of our kids with fantastic experiences through school sports.
We begin with Cross Country running with students from grades 1-9 participating in races hosted throughout Parkland School Division. We then move to the Volleyball season and after that its Basketball season where we have teams for students from grade 5-9. Literally several dozen students have the opportunity to participate and have fun in the West Central Junior High Athletic Association (WCJHAA). When Basketball has concluded we begin Badminton season and we finish our school year with Track and Field.
So back to the original questions. What is the point of these teams and sports? Why do so many adults invest so much time and energy in these activities throughout the year? While this could be argued by many with various opinions, I believe that school sports serve a variety of purposes. Athletic teams provide the opportunity to develop teamwork, sportsmanship, citizenship and leadership skills in kids. They are absolutely about supporting kids in their physical wellness and about skill development. They can engage kids in school who otherwise might not feel a sense of purpose or contribution to their school community. School sports forge friendships between peers and relationships with adults who serve as coaches, mentors and role models. Sports develop kids fitness and skill levels. The list can go on and on…
In his role as an ambassador for the Positive Coaching Alliance, Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young reminds us that:
“By the age of 13 over 70% of kids drop out of organized youth sports because it just isn’t fun anymore…gone is the opportunity to build important, character building traits – resilience, self control, mental toughness…”
It’ s interesting that Steve Young does not discuss winning or competition… if we don’t measure success in these ways, then how? While it might be extremely difficult to measure the forging of new relationships, the development of sportsmanship and skill, are these skills not equally or more important than winning?
During a past conversation with a hockey parent I mentioned that if winning the league championship is the only measure of success, then how will the parents and coaches of 14 other teams help their 7 and 8 year old kids to feel good about their previous six months?
What do you see as the purpose of school athletic programs?
Principal, Blueberry School