Students spend approximately seven hours in a classroom for 180 days out of every year. They learn things like math, science, social studies, English and other subjects. For many students, however, the learning experience doesn't end there. Spend any amount of time, from 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., in any of the secondary schools, and you'll find a number of extracurricular activities occurring.
There are students involved in band, chorus, student council, technology, etc. However, most of the students you'd see are involved in interscholastic sports. These sports are not just extra-curricular activities, but co-curricular activities. They truly are an extension of the classroom where lessons are taught and learned beyond the seven-hour school day.
Many studies have been done on the effect of sports participation on academic progress, concluding that a strong correlation exists between participation in sports and academic success. The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, like many other state organizations, have rules regarding eligibility and attendance of student-athletes. Athletes need to maintain a passing grade in at least four full-credit courses and may not miss more than 20 days during a semester.
JV Family file photo
The Mifflin County High School Husky
football team takes the field at the first home game last season at Mitchell Field.
In addition, many coaches have more stringent guidelines for their players which encourage better attendance and increased expectations for academic progress. For any athletes hoping to play sports at the collegiate level, the NCAA has strict guidelines for courses that must be completed and grades that must be maintained. At the Division III level, no athletic scholarships are available for athletes, but academic scholarships may be earned by potential athletes. All of these factors and more help inspire student athletes to perform their best in the classroom.
Sports, though, have more of an impact on learning than just inspiring students to succeed in academics. On a basic level, all sports teach athletes how to exercise, eat a healthy diet and maintain general health and well-being. Sports also teach valuable concepts of memorization and communication. Memorizing plays, techniques and opponent tendencies is an essential part of scholastic sports. Athletes can then translate these skills to academics and other areas of life.
Through success obtained in personal and team victories, athletes learn confidence in themselves and those around them. On the other side, athletes learn to deal with adversity through losses and failures. From these instances, they learn, through the help of their coaches and teammates, how to work hard and improve. Athletes also learn to be self-motivated for success and can motivate those around them for team success. Athletes are taught important values that are useful throughout the rest of their lives such as work ethic, teamwork and a competitive attitude. These skills are extremely valuable when trying to succeed in today's work environment.
Sports also gives students the chance to form valuable relationships and friendships. Many of us who participated in sports during school still have life-long friendships formed through the team.
Sports is also an avenue of release for athletes, providing an outlet for anger, frustration, anxieties, etc. Just as elementary students receive a valuable time of release during recess, sports provide the same opportunity for student-athletes at the secondary level. Similarly, participating in sports, with the hours of commitment it takes to be successful, athletes are more likely to avoid getting involved in criminal activity.
It is important for all of us to keep scholastic sports in the right perspective. For those of us who are heavily involved in sports through coaching, parenting, playing, etc., we need to understand that academics must never be negatively impacted by sports and that athletes are students first and foremost. There are also other avenues, other than sports, that provide similar benefits and experiences that need to be respected.
For those who may not be interested or involved in scholastic sports, please understand that there are many benefits to those involved. They are learning lessons and gaining experiences that will benefit all of society. For everyone, the next time you are at a scholastic sporting event, hear it on the radio or read about it in the newspaper, remember that these are teenage student athletes who aren't just playing games, but are participating in the extended classroom.
Matthew E. Shoemaker is the Mifflin County School District Dean of Students and athletic director.