Is it Back-to-School or Back-to-Football?

Does High School football upstage academics?

Back-to-school time is my favorite time of year, not just because my kids are out of the house and back into a routine, but I have the wild idea that they will be intellectually challenged and learning great things. Which I’m confident will happen for the most part.  And, I know learning reaches beyond their academic studies.  High school teaches kids life lessons through friendships – relationships with authority figures, teachers and coaches, as well as about rules and boundaries.

Participation in school sports provides yet another opportunity for learning, the sport skills aside, more importantly it’s the teamwork, cooperation and discipline. Yet these past two weeks I’ve noticed football, football and more football – to the point that it is,  back-to-football. High school football in the United States appears to hold a special status; regional and even national newspapers have a section dedicated in their news reports for high school athletics (now dominated by football), and even football athlete ‘profiles’ in local magazines and newspapers.

I suggest that our current culture focuses on High School football at the expense of school academics and other activities. Furthermore, football and other high-profile varsity sports can even discourage sports participation in other less gifted students, and divert attention and funds away from other beneficial activities.  I could provide a long list of examples to support my hypothesis, though I’ll limit it to just a few for the sake of your time.

Here are some examples I came across this week:

Los Angeles Times

Above: USA Today, September 4, 2012

Above: Orange County Illustrated, September 4, 2012

Above image from  Max Preps company website:

MaxPreps is America’s Source for High School Sports. We are proud to be involved with America’s hometown heroes – the young men and women working hard to improve their skills, place team above self, and serve as inspirations to their local communities. MaxPreps aspires to cover every team, every game and every player. We do this in partnership with nearly 25,000 varsity coaches throughout the United States.

I encourage parents and coaches to come to their own conclusions, but think of this: what message might we be sending to  high school kids when school sports results and performance make regional and national sports headlines? Or when athletes are featured in local magazine profiles in glossy full pages given a celebrity-like status? I am thinking not just of our own children, but students of our community – from diverse backgrounds, different cultures, family structures, or socio economic backgrounds.

There is some interesting research in this area, which I’ll save for another post. In the meantime it is back-to-school time, an exciting time of year. A fresh start for students to tackle a new school year, to learn, grow and learn those life skills that they will need to take our place.

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