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Athletics and schools: A winning combination
Athletics have had a place in schools—both at the elementary level and the university level—for decades. In addition to offering an energizing break from studies and a healthy outlet for stress, students who participate in school-sponsored or club sports are likely to experience a few of these benefits and important life lessons:

  • Fitness—participation in athletics requires physical exertion to play and to play well, encouraging students to spend less time on the couch and more time staying fit.
  • Opportunities for leadership—students involved in sports, especially university club sports, which tend to be student-run, have ample opportunity to learn how to lead from coaches and each other in a setting where the need for (and benefits of) leadership is often very clear.
  • Ability to collaborate—athletics expose students to the value of teamwork while providing an outlet to discover how to communicate as a team, and using individual strengths of team members to work towards a common goal.
  • Exposure to the importance of preparation—athletes learn quickly that skills need to be exercised and constantly improved upon in order to be successful.
  • Development of time management skills—participation in many school-sponsored sports at the high school and university levels is directly tied to academic performance, forcing serious athletes to learn how to balance sports with academics and social activities in order to remain successful in all areas of life.

Schools are also in a position to benefit positively from athletics, primarily in seeing:

  • Increased opportunity for parent involvement—pep rallies, fundraisers, and of course, games all provide opportunities for parents to bond with their children, other parents, students and teachers over school spirit and healthy competition. Not to mention, it provides an opportunity for parents to become more involved in other aspects of a student’s academics as they help their child manage time and prepare for game day.
  • Creation and support of ties between the school and the community—public athletic events give community members a chance to participate in a school and contagious school spirit, even if community members don’t have children enrolled at the school or university.
  • A source of revenue to maintain current and grow future school athletic programs through booster clubs—admission charges, concession stands and souvenirs like playful Bandanas or cool t-shirts in team or school colours, imprinted with the school’s mascot, are all great ideas for helping your teams stay funded while spreading pride throughout the school and in the community.

So, as an educator or school administrator, how can you support and encourage athleticism in students? Here are a few ideas:

At the elementary level, encourage the development of basic athletic skills during recess or outdoor play time by providing students with balls and sports equipment, along with an adult who’s willing to initiate and facilitate games.

At the high school level, invite activities directors or admissions representatives from local universities to speak to students on the benefits of participating in athletics and other extra-curricular activities.

At the university level, hold athletic fairs to expose students to all athletic opportunities—not just school-sponsored or funded ones. Often times club or league sports offer options beyond traditional athletics (like fencing, croquet, curling or orienteering) and can be less skill- and competition-oriented and more focused on fun. Many times, students simply aren’t aware of athletic outlets on campus. Have the activities department or student government sponsor this fair with a round of bingo—pass out a check list of all athletics in attendance and encourage students to check out each one. Reward those who visit a certain number of booths to learn about the sport with a Carabiner Stainless Steel Sports Bottle or a Rally Towel.

Even if students aren’t interested in sports, they can still have fun while supporting their peers and showing pride for their school and teams—consider hosting a ‘fan appreciation’ game and give away Thunder Stix inflatable noisemakers or Glo Lights to the first 100 spectators that show up for the big game.

Lastly, athletics and academics can be a winning combination, and sometimes just showing your support as an educator or administrator by cheering on the home team is all the encouragement that students need!

Metzl, Jordan D., and Carol Shookhoff. The Young Athlete A Sports Doctor’s Complete Guide for Parents. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2003. Print.
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