GUEST VIEW: Why high school sports?


By Daily News • Last Updated 10:53 am on Monday, December 09, 2013

By Brian Zdanowski 

Greenville High School Athletic Director

With each school year, we begin a cycle of athletic seasons that complement our top priority: academic achievement. From time to time, we find ourselves reflecting on the meaningful role school-based athletics plays in our students’ overall education. We are also reminded that our purpose needs to be well understood and in the most effective situations, will be a shared commitment by students, coaches, parents, and the community. When expectations of purpose are not shared, our athletic programs aren’t able to make the positive contributions we hope they bring to our schools.

The purpose for school-based athletics at Greenville High School is defined in The Mission Statement for our Athletic Department. It reads:

“The Greenville Public Schools is committed to a wide range of interscholastic athletic experiences and the support to insure that student athletes reach their highest skill level; mentally, physically, and academically as an individual and as a team member.”

This was a key component as we went through our self-assessment and evaluation and gained exemplary status back in 2000. A lot of things have changed since then, but our core beliefs have not. With this in mind, I would like to explain some of the reasons why we offer high school sports.

Let’s start with the basics. Why do kids choose to take part in high school sports? Is it because of winning? A recent MHSAA survey indicated that boys list winning as the sixth highest reason they participate in high school sports, and girls list it as their seventh highest reason. This has stayed true for the past few years even as high school sports in Michigan have had some of their highest overall participation numbers on record in many sports. For boys the top reasons for playing sports is to follow in their dads’ footsteps and fun. For girls the top reason is to be social.

Could it be because kids participating in high school sports have a good chance of receiving a college scholarship for athletics? Probably not, according to the NCAA, which states that less than 2 percent of all high school athletes will participate at a member institution, and far fewer will receive any aid. The number of athletes who will play at the professional level is even lower with only .02 percent of these athletes advancing.

Might it be because these kids like to play in front of large crowds where there is a community interest in our local teams? Could be. In fact, last year, there were over 25,000 paid admissions, not counting season passes, for athletic events at Greenville High School. A survey by Sports Business Journal indicates that high school sports are the most inexpensive spectator entertainment there is.

How about the high cost for participation on many non-school sports teams? I know of costs ranging from $500 to $1,500 for one sport, for one season. There currently is no fee for participation in athletics at Greenville High School and, yet, the athletic budget has only fluctuated from 1 to 3 percent of the overall district budget the last 20 years.

A recent study by the Minnesota State High School League indicated that students who participate in high school sports have an average GPA of 2.84 versus 2.68 for non-athletes and that they miss an average of 1.5 less days of school. Health journals have also indicated that athletes are suspended 50 percent less often for drug use, are 37 percent less likely to become teen parents, and are less prone to childhood obesity than their peers who do not participate in sports. Also, the National Federation of High Schools indicates that most high school coaches are still teachers and trained educators.

The benefits of kids taking part in high school sporting teams reach far beyond the good feeling they get from winning. Make no mistake. All staff, coaches and athletes want to win. It’s why we practice so hard and put an emphasis on attendance at practices. But at the end of the day, it’s more about building commitment, character, respect and responsibility. It’s about teaching kids how to handle the disappointment of loss and how to cheer on their teammates from the sidelines, even when they may be a first string player. As our mission statement says, it truly is about creating opportunities for mental, physical and social development both as an individual and a team.

Brian Zdanowski is Greenville High School’s athletics director.

The opinions expressed in the Guest View do not necessarily represent the opinions of The Daily News.

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