High School Sports: Former College Basketball Coach Wants to End High School Sports

I have to admit, based on Dan Hinxman’s piece Ex-coach proposes ending high school sports, I thought it absurd a former coach, Len Stevens, would support just such a notion. However, the reasoning behind why he feels this way does have some weight, at least on the surface.

First, I do see this idea of sports as an “inclusive part of the educational” process being something that certainly has degraded over the years. Just perusing the list Hinxman gives (based on Stevens’ point of view) supports that statement:

“• Coaches were supposed to be teachers. Now fewer than half of them are.”

“• Each passing year, fewer and fewer students attend their schools’ games. A recent study showed fewer than 10 percent attend games...”

“• At almost every school principals will tell you their greatest headache is dealing with parents who have complaints about their child’s experience in sports (the child should be playing more, the coach doesn’t know what he’s doing, the coach is too harsh, etc.).”

I can definitely attest to the first and third one above.

In my many years as a teacher and former coach, I can honestly say that yes, there are fewer teachers doing the coaching as schools are having to look outside the school confines for experienced coaches in a variety of sports. It is definitely a concern within administration at the high school where I teach, likely most others too.

This does seem to support the separation of sports from the educational system, as some outside coaches (those with no ties to teaching students or student athletes in the classroom) may not necessarily see the important connection between the two.

And, without a doubt, principals (along with other administrators) are having to deal with irate parents for all the reasons Hinxman referenced, and more. Yep, the days of full support for schools, coaches, and athletic programs has certainly taken a back seat to political correctness and entitlement type attitudes.

However, the “10 percent attend games” thing, well…not sure how accurate that is across the board as each school district, even each sport, has varying degrees of interest from the student body. Oh sure, I can see where this might be true in some areas, and at some schools, but as an absolute―I’m just not so sure about that.

With regard to his solution of cutting high school sports out and going to the European model, well…I don’t really think that solves anything at all. Actually, I believe you would lose more, on the whole, than you would gain. But that, of course, is all in one’s perspective I guess.

From my viewpoint, a school is a community of people, of learners. Part of that community, and learning what it means to be a community, is about supporting each other in the different talents and expertise we all have. Whether it is music, speech, band, or yes, sports, they all do bring to the table a sense of togetherness that is difficult to quantify. And this sense of togetherness, or community, helps give students purpose. The kind of purpose that extends beyond the classroom and athletic field, and into life.

My view, better to find ways to try and encourage more school involvement in sports attendance rather than throwing out an unsupported statistic that is not likely accurate as an absolute across the board. Dropping sports from high schools is not really a solution; it is simply giving in to a pendulum swing that can be changed with proper efforts in the right places.

Next, I also tend to think this issue of parents being overinvolved in high school sports needs to be addressed not pushed off to the club scene. Again, similar to what I mention above, let’s work on staying true to what positive sports experiences bring to those involved (all those, including spectators) rather than dismissing it as a “not my problem” type of action that cutting school sports would indicate.

To me, the positives of high school sports, and the learning that comes with it, far outweigh the negatives Stevens believes support the need to remove them from the high school educational experience. Developing a sense of community and the sports opportunities given to many are simply too important to be left up to “clubs.” A group whose primary focus is more likely on generating business and money than it is on creating good citizens, successful people, and future leaders.

(And, no, I don’t believe that the underprivileged would be part of the “club” scene in reality.)




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    In the 1930’s, youth sports was scrutinized for the potentially harmful psychological effects of competition on children. Early in "youth sports" history, it was physical educators’ roles to coach school-sponsored sports, and after schools opted-out of organized sports citing sports competition to be psychologically stressful for children; they were replaced by parents and organizations like Little League Baseball and Pop Warner Football. Soon after it was acceptable that people with no formal training in coaching or child development would be leading our competitive sports environments. (Koester, 2000)

    Today, youth sports are still being led by policies and procedures, many of which were developed without the help of the sports science community. Society today is heavily focused on achievement instead of child development, creating a potential for over-parenting or a hyper-involvement that can lead to parents turning children into trophies. Hara-Estroff Marano, author of A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting writes, “Instead of overhauling educational institutions, parents have chosen intense control over their children in an effort to smooth their path to success (p. 7)."

    The model for high schools' minimizing their involvement in sports is already in place. It is called, youth sports. Whether people like the idea or not, I think it is fair to say in these tough economic times when educational budgets have been slashed dramatically, it is a real possibility that school-led sports programs could become a thing of the past.


    Hedstrom, R., & Gould, D. (2004, November 1). Research in youth sports: Critical issues status (White Paper). Retrieved from Ebsco: www.ebscohost.com

    Koester, M. C. (2000, December). Youth sports: A pediatrician’s perspective on coaching and injury prevention. Journal of Athletic Training, 35, 466-470. Retrieved from www.ebscohost.com.

    Marano, E. H. (2008). A nation of Wimps. New York, NY: Broadway p. 7

  • Great comment Coach Pickles. As a parent of athletes who have gone through the gamut of our youth sports culture, 32+ years in teaching and 17 of those years in coaching, I have to say I actually see this in action way too often, “Instead of overhauling educational institutions, parents have chosen intense control over their children in an effort to smooth their path to success (p. 7)."

    And, sadly, I do believe that this, "it is a real possibility that school-led sports programs could become a thing of the past," is a very likely possibility.

    Kirk Mango
    Becoming a True Champion

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