Why Sports Matter

November 2nd, 2011 | By Marjie No Comments

A very successful coach friend of mine says, “It’s not about the win. It’s about how a person or team gets to the W. If you’re doing all the right things leading up to the game itself, the win will be there.”

As a competitive athlete (back in my day), I know exactly what he means
by that. Winning is fun, and it’s a powerful incentive to anyone with a
competitive streak. But think about it. Actual competition comprises just a tiny percentage of the time and energy expended on sports. Practices, conditioning, strength and agility workouts, team-building activities … those are where the real commitment lies.

So why exactly do sports matter? If only a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of athletes end up pursuing sports as a profession, why do they
matter in our schools, recreation departments and colleges?

“Sports encourage and promote a healthy and physically-fit lifestyle, and they teach children and young adults life lessons such as responsibility, commitment, teamwork, dedication and perseverance.   Our children are our future, and youth sports play a key role in their character development.” – Natalie Fernandez, vice president of the Tanque Verde Soccer Club, financial advisor with Greenberg Financial Group in Tucson, and member of one of the families that helped start the Fort Lowell Shootout.

While some school systems are limiting growth or even cutting back in the area of intra- and interscholastic sports, others are doing the opposite, with tangible positive results in the areas of student involvement, reported satisfaction and even test scores. Unfortunately, in these days of intense economic scrutiny and occasionally sweeping budget cuts, athletics – along with other perceived ‘extras’ such as fine arts and after-school programs – can be at risk despite their proven benefits. The bottom line is, well, the bottom line.

Edgar Soto, executive director of athletics for Pima Community College,makes a strong case for keeping athletics in our schools, at every level: 

The concept of athletics as part of our students’ lives supports the mission of Pima Community College: “To develop our community through learning.”  PCC’s athletic program brings a sense of community to our campuses and has brought local, state and national recognition to the college.  The program also does a great job with student retention and recruitment.  

Athletics connect the college to the external community and support the educational success of our students.  All of our teams perform community service and outreach activities as ambassadors for PCC.  We hear from the business community that they need employees who are “team players,” able to collaborate with others to achieve results.  Our athletic programs teach students just that.  We focus on academic performance, teamwork, self-discipline, attitude, follow-through, taking direction and much more.

Our athletic programs also provide opportunities for student development and growth that are not available in any other way.  Many student athletes benefit by receiving post-secondary education that they might not have received without athletic programs.  Finally, having the athletic program enriches the college experience for all students, not just the student-athletes.

The bottom line with why sports matter in the lives of our children and youth is simple for me. It promotes health.  Being healthy is what is most important in life.

The overwhelming, consistent message from all those we interviewed for this article revealed a complete lack of interest and focus on ‘the win.’ Clearly, sports aren’t about winning to the experts in our schools. Greg Byrne, director of athletics for the University of Arizona, sums it up: “Sports can teach so many things and impact people of all ages: teamwork, hard work, individual dedication, the understanding of victory and defeat and perseverance – just to name a few. All of these things are good for our children to learn.”

Sports, arts and sciences all play their own roles in developing globally-aware, healthy citizens. When these areas are enriched at the K-12 levels, our children and youth come out with a W in life as well as
in school.

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