As the Olympics get underway, the coffee coolers in workplaces all over the world are dominated by people discussing The Games. My workplace is no different….except that on a college campus, the general tone of the conversation tends to be somewhat condescending towards the sporting world.
The general opinion among a huge swath of college professors is that sports glorify hyper-masculinity, divert students from worthwhile endeavors in the classroom, and serve little or no value for society.
I could not disagree more. I firmly believe that sports help keep the body physically fit, develop camaraderie among team players, and are a healthy activity in a world full of overly-seductive drugs, trashy movies, and promiscuity.
My husband has some interesting observation on the value of sports to our society. He teaches in one of the roughest high schools in the state of Florida. His students are mostly from broken homes, many are in gangs, and the dropout, pregnancy, and incarceration rate would break your heart. My husband reports that his best students are the ones playing in team sports. By “best students,” he means the ones who come to class, stay out of trouble, and turn in their homework….not necessarily the most academically brilliant.
Bill believes the structure and discipline from playing sports teaches these kids important life skills. You can’t show up the day before the season’s first football game and “cram” to learn football. It takes months of drill, conditioning, practice, and self-discipline before the kids get to that first game. There is a healthy dose of delayed gratification, teamwork, and time management that is necessary to be successful in a sport. Those are transferable skills!
I suppose there a plenty of activities that might serve a similar purpose: the chess club, boy scouts, canoeing…. more power to the kids who pursue those activities, but they don’t really appeal to a broad audience. Sports do. I know the kids in Bill’s high school are all dreaming of being the next Donovan McNabb or Payton Manning. This is an impossible dream for 99% of them, but that does not mean their sports training is in vain. They will learn time management, self-discipline, and delayed gratification, and these skills are going to give them a chance in this world.
An interesting factoid: If you remove colleges with televised sports (USC, Ohio State, etc.) college athletes generally have slightly higher GPAs than the overall student population. Food for thought!