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Post's Jay Mathews on the Value of High School Sports

Washington Post education writer Jay Mathews tackled a subject this weekend that he admittedly rarely covers: the impact of high school sports.

Mathews, who pens the Class Struggle blog, notes that high school sports participation hit an all-time high this past school year with 7.7 million total student-athletes, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations' High School Athletics Participation Survey.

Given the amount of budget cuts that many high schools across the country have faced over the past few years, Mathews finds it rather remarkable that sports participation only continues to trend upward.

But more than that, Mathews believes that sports bring something to the table not often found elsewhere in schools:

"Coaches might be the only faculty members still allowed by our culture and educational practice to get tough with students not making the proper effort. They have the advantage of teaching what are essentially elective non-credit courses. They can insist on standards of behavior that classroom teachers often cannot enforce because the stakes of dismissing or letting students drop their courses are too high."

After all, what student couldn't use a little tough love every once in a while?

Mathews also brings up the fact that data indicate students who participate in sports and other extracurricular activities tend to learn teamwork, leadership, and time management better than typical students. (He didn't mention that physical fitness programs have been linked to academic gains, however.)

All in all, Mathews concludes:

"Students do better in activities they choose. If we provide more of them, led by committed adults, maybe even part-timers or volunteers, that can make a difference."

Ultimately, that's the argument any K-12 sports advocate can fall back on. If sports can lure certain students to school each day, schools should spare no expense to preserve these programs and ensure that they don't lose those same students.

And that's not to mention the impact that high school sports programs can have on the childhood obesity epidemic.

Want all the latest K-12 sports news? Follow @SchooledinSport on Twitter.

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