It’s no secret that the United States trails other countries in the classroom, but
would the United States be willing to sacrifice its sports supremacy to fix its educational system?
Kayhi principal Bob Marshall believes participating in high school sports has positive impacts that go beyond academics.
“[The] team element–where you’re having to work with people– [is] going to be huge one day in the workplace, but also in life,” said Marshall. “With sports, your going to have those competitions but there’s rules and regulations. Which just like life, there’s going to be competition but you have to work within the guidelines that are presented.”
For Kayhi senior baseball player, Tug Olson, sports don’t only benefit the athletes participating in them, but the entire school is positively influenced by them.
“[School sports] keep morale up. Xavier (the exchange student from Belgium) was telling us they don’t have school sports in Belgium, and he loves it here,” said Olson. “He gets to go out and cheer, participate, and have his fellow high schoolers cheer him on. It’s a whole other experience.”
Sports clearly play a considerable role in students’ lives that affect them in other ways besides their academic performance.
Kayhi vocational teacher and business owner Todd Henke thinks sports also play a larger, more communal role.
“Is the whole athletic program apart of the community identity? I think in a small town it definitely is,” said Henke. “It helps the community in being a community. It gives a sense of pride and belonging.”
Countries like South Korea and Singapore do indeed have better performing education institutions without the use of athletics. But, these are also the same countries which are described as “pressure-cookers” when it comes to academia.
Teacher Joey Fama, who has wrestled and is now coaching at Kayhi, was surprised at the strictness and high stress environment of South Korean schooling.
“I had an exchange student from South Korea a couple years ago, and it was pretty crazy hearing about the testing amount and how stressed they are,” said Fama. “I mean there were suicides.”
The system that boasts efficiency and success comes with a cost.
“She couldn’t do what she wanted to do for a career,” said Fama. “In third grade she got a B on her English test, and now she can’t be a doctor.”
When exchange students like Xavier come to the United States, they say high school is fun and are surprised with different schooling experiences. With all the focus being on graduation rates, GPAs, and so on, the fun aspect of high school may get neglected in other countries.
Marshall thinks the emotional well being of students is just as important as their success in school. Sports meet the emotional needs of students.
“I think investing in those type of activities is important and it’s not a waste of money,” said Marshall. “I just think it’s fun. Most people when they do it, have some enjoyment. It gets kids involved that otherwise wouldn’t be.”