Sunday, April 29, 2007

One Coach's View Of High School Sports

Basketball coach and social studies teacher Coach Brown (he's on the blogroll) has this to say about coaching:

Parents: They feel way too empowered, and are screwing up high school athletics.

Which leads me to the idea of going the European route. Drop high school athletics and let the parents get a club together, all the while letting them create this oh-so-impressive program that they feel they can whip out of the air. That way they get complete control and can hire and fire anyone they want at will. Sure, the real students that need the sports won't really get exposed to them since the club will cost a fee (what, you think the district is going to fund you? They won't be funding us this year!), and you will have to drop over half the programs because you really can't find qualified coaches (the high school can't keep coaches), but you'll find some way to figure it out. Don't forget Title IX type laws, ADA laws, or the fact that athletics isn't just about "The Big Three" (baseball, basketball, football). You need to offer those sports that don't make any money as well. You know, golf, diving, tennis, freshmen sports.

But sadly, I'd vote on something like this because coaches are not treated like teachers, yet are held to the same standard. Unfortunately, parents are less irate about Johnny failing Government, than Johnny not getting at least 5 minutes a game on the basketball court. Until schools take, and I mean take, back control of athletics, it just isn't worth it.

He has plenty more to say on the topic here.


curious said...

I would make a distinction between the "everyone plays for fun" Phys Ed class, and the high school "team" (in whichever sport you are talking about).

The Phys Ed class is often the first introduction a child gets to a given sport or exercise or working out or swimming or any of another dozens of very useful activities.

The high school "team" has no place in high school. It is a dysfunction that elevates a few people to stardom and makes them above the rules. All the resources put on the "team" are several orders of magnitude larger than the resources put on any other subject that any roomful of students might be involved in. Imagine a science class that had the resources fawned on it that the basketball team has fawned on it.

I think that high school "team" sports really belongs in a semi-pro league funded by someone other than the taxpayers who want their children to get a good education.

Coach Brown said...

Um, you mean like Advanced Placement classes?

Physical well being, competitive drive, sportsmanship, and work ethic aren't part of a "good education"?

Scott MCCall said...

i like Curious' statement

allen said...

Physical well being, competitive drive, sportsmanship, and work ethic aren't part of a "good education"?

Maybe we need a little prioritization, hey?

Let's put, oh, reading near the top of the list as part of a "good education" and learning to throw a pass somewhere down the list.

Coach Brown said...

Spoken like the true academic, or maybe not. Actually, more like a politician.

Maybe you missed the point. You seem to think that athletics are given a higher priority than reading. That isn't true of course. Take a look at the funding for reading programs and take a look at funding for athletics. It isn't even close.

Of course students should put a focus on reading. That isn't even a question. However, there seems to be this idea that competitive athletics don't belong in school. I don't like them in their current form (no support, abusive parents), but they absolutely belong in school. Again, they are the advanced placement PE classes. You learn things on competitive teams that you will not in the classroom. This idea that the body isn't as important as the mind is the reason that the U.S. has became a nation of fat teenagers. Take a look at some of the recent studies that show that more active students do BETTER in academics than inactive ones.

By the way, my basketball team had an overall GPA of 3.6, and next years Varsity team will have over a half dozen AP students. Screw the 'dumb jock' syndrome.

allen said...

Spoken like the true academic, or maybe not. Actually, more like a politician.

That would be "Written like a true academic" but why quibble? Neither characterization is accurate.

Take a look at the funding for reading programs and take a look at funding for athletics. It isn't even close.

Let's look rather at the importance placed on results.

How many losing seasons does it take before there's a "realignment" in the coaching staff?

How many illiterate graduates does it take for the "reading" staff to get some of that realigning?

Put another way, there's never been any need for an NCLB for high school football. Scores are widely published and important to coach-teachers, administrators, players and parents. No one wrings their hands over "score-driven athletics" and there's no need to do any arm-twisting to get those scores.

Results are real important in high school atheletics.

Academics, by contrast, mustn't be measured and the idea of doing so isn't discussed in polite company. Federally-mandated measurement of academics has kindled a new-found love of state's rights in the hearts of people who, until their ox was gored, were hardly aware of the concept.

Athletics is not swept by the half-baked fads that plague academics. The techniques and ideas of winning teacher-coaches are discussed and emulated. The techniques and ideas of winning teacher-teachers, by contrast, rarely results in anything more the a pat on the head.

It's pretty clear which is important and which isn't.

Mike said...

Whoa there buckaroos! I can't recall the last time every class in my high school was canceled so that the students could cheer at a pep rally for the academic team. Nor can I recall the school district buying a Greyhound-quality bus for the debate squad, or a new theater for vocal music or drama, and on and on.

Do kids need physical education, an introduction to, even mandatory participation in a sport that they can pursue for a lifetime? Absolutely. But our schools are poorly served by our current sports establishment which often amounts to little more than parents who never grew up living vicariously through their children, and which serves very little of a given student body.

But we're not talking about whatever problems schools have in their academic pursuits, we're talking, unless I'm badly misreading this thread, about athletics and its proper role in the public school environment. Attacking something other than athletics and claiming that there are problems there--and there are--does not in any way lessen athletic problems, nor does it contribute to solutions.

And let's not compare costs unless we're willing to look at all the related factors. Take the 30-40 or so male students in a given high school who play varsity football. If we add up, per student, all of the costs of running a football season (including nearly as many coaches, trainers, etc. as there are players--I know, it's a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much in some places) such as uniforms, transportation, facilities, staff salaries, facility construction and maintenance, etc. can we really argue that the exorbitant amount of money showered on each of these kids contributes to educational excellence?

My point here is mainly that our current athletic system is set up to mimic professional sports, and a very limited number of professional sports. If it was not for federal laws mandating equal opportunities, many schools would still have only football, basketball, track and perhaps wrestling, and only for boys. Even as they stand now, all of the kids involved in sports in a given school account for a tiny percentage of the student population, and require an outsized financial investment. In many ways, adults are far more invested in this system than kids.

Proposition: Our students--not adults--would be much better served with a very wide variety of lifetime sports, sports such as swimming, fencing, tennis, running, bicycling, etc., done in an essentially intramural setting. The idea would be to involve the entire student body in vigorous and rewarding exercise. Excellent athletes could still excell, but would have a much broader base of opportunities in which to excell. Sorry, but the NFL and NBA will have to find another method to get its players prior to their felony convictions.

There's nothing whatever wrong with athletics. Let's apply it to those who need it most, not those who can best be exploited for adult glory. The kids can have the opportunity to do their best under either system, Which would best serve the most kids?

curious said...

This idea that the body isn't as important as the mind is the reason that the U.S. has became a nation of fat teenagers.

I never said that the body should be treated as if it is unimportant. I think that Phys Ed is very valuable. What I have a big problem with is the high school team.

I think the only thing that competetive athletics teaches children is how to be a better bully. I never said that jocks were dumb, I do think that most of them are belligerent a&*holes. At least that was the case when I was in high school.

There is no way you can tell me that any academic class gets anywhere near the funding or attention that the high school team gets. How many science classes have microscopes? How many football teams have uniforms, pads, drill equipment...etc, etc, etc. How many science classes get to take the bus to the science museum three towns away? How many football teams get to take the bus to the "away" game?

I guess you'll now say that I was a victim of the bullies which is why I feel this way, but before you do I played high school baseball in the 11th and 12th grade and got a walkon tryout with the Savannah Braves, I hit their pitchers like it was batting practice. I could hit like a demon but I couldn't catch with a basket, or throw. I was so bad in the field it was comical. Coach Tommie Aaron (this was 1974) said I had a natural swing and an unnatural glove.

Ellen K said...

You are a brave man to state what amounts to treason and heresy here in the state of Friday Night Lights. Athletics drives more programs that people like to admit. One of the reason that we have such anomalies as six man football is because small towns are terrified of losing their identities. Sadly, most of that is tied up to their athletic programs. I teach in a district where there is no doubt athletics, especially football, is king. There are SIXTEEN football coaches. Granted, most coach or teach other classes, but the head coaches of football and basketball do not. The irony spirals onward as the regular teachers deal with overcrowded third period classes due to the schedule that gives all coaches the same planning periods. Other departments don't have that benefit, although it would certainly help. I have golfers and tennis players that miss one day a week for the entire spring term. And on an accelerated block schedule that works out to 20% of the class time. And this doesn't even touch on the school wide celebrations for whatever team is currently winning. According to the state of Texas, there's supposed to be "transparency" in the district budgets, but darned if I can find where they count every uniform, helmet and the stadium maintenance under the same headings. Add to that the salary of our head football coach which is THREE times the average teacher. You are brave as a coach to mention a return of extracurricular activities to times outside of school, but unless it's a federal law, it will never happen here. And that is to our own detriment.