Some people argue that it’s a fair way to ensure that athletes keep their learning up, so they don’t put the game ahead of life studies. I’d beg to differ, but let’s leave that argument aside for a bit.
Instead, let’s take the case of a child who has a history of poor academic performance but has never played sports…not in elementary school, not in summer sports, nothing.
He or she may have an ongoing attention deficit or the class sizes are so large that the teachers are unable to provide the individualized attention that the student needs to grasp the concepts. Or the child has just never caught the learning bug.
Over a period of years, school grades drop or stay low, and the student becomes unmotivated to continue. This is a classic profile of a potential drop-out and adult underachiever, which is a serious problem for the entire community.
It’s also the profile of a kid who won’t ever get a shot at school sports.
But what if this child did get a chance to play?
What if, at a tryout, it was discovered that he or she has natural athletic abilities and “clicks” with the coach or team? What if, during the practices and games, the child develops a sense of sportsmanship, camaraderie and a will to win? And what if this change of outlook directly translates into increased motivation, greater respect for teachers, and improved attention in class?
Well, you’ll never know if the kid isn’t given a chance to play, will you?
And that’s just not fair. Not only that, it’s not utilizing all of the resources available to explore the child’s chances for success. In other words, it’s a failure on the part of the school.
I also believe the same argument applies to the tragic decision made in many districts to cut clubs and programs such as music, art, graphic design and performing arts. These are areas where people with non-traditional skill sets can excel and find the motivation to transfer that improvement to the classroom as well.
As for the student athlete, I think if we followed the course I have suggested above, he or she will begin to realize there is a lot more competition for his or her spot on the team. That can be even better motivation than booting him from the locker room.