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Sports Crazed?

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In a Teacher Leaders Network column, English teacher Mary Tedrow writes that high-profile high school athletic programs are in direct conflict with academic pursuits. Tedrow says that athletics are regularly given precedence over school instructional priorities, and that student athletes are often sent the wrong message about the importance of sports relative to schoolwork and career preparation.

What's your view? Do high school sports detract from academics? Should sports be separated from schools?

39 Comments

I have very little patients for teachers who blame rather than take responsibility. Blanket statements and arguments of this nature do nothing to promote a solution to any problem facing our schools today. It is only when you chose to look at each child as an individual that you start to see what helps or hinders them. Your position that the student who sat in your 9th grade class only during football season attempts to attribute a cause and affect relationship where none exists. I appreciate your passion, but maybe it would be better directed at helping students achieve, rather than blaming others. Maybe that same passion directed at the student who spent four years in your english class would have contributed to a more positive future for him.

I've had a number of students like the football player who placed all their hopes for the future on their skills on the athletic field. When they are achieving on the field, in their lack of maturity, they see little use for the time spent in the classroom. They are alrerady much vaunted stars in the eyes of their classmates. What more would a 14 - 18 year old need or want? One of our star basketball players passed his required Virginia SOL tests only because I spent extra time during the day remediating him. When he violated the terms of his full scholarship to play basketball, he returned home where his future looks dim. The football player was in my room at the request of the principal. He thought I might be able to motivate him, and in his last year, I thought I might finally bring his attention to the classroom. But when you are 18, four more years of high school looks like a pretty big hill to climb. If the two disciplines were separated, wouldn't the goals of both programs be clearer to the young student? As adults, we owe them the kind of clarity that they can't be expected perceive on their own.

"During the all-important reviews for state testing . . . " Any article that contains this phrase should be examined very carefully. The actual benefits of school sports at their best are so much more important than reviewing for a standardized test that it's tempting to reject the entire article out of hand. A careful reading, though, tells me that nearly every problem the author mentions is either a MANAGEMENT PROBLEM or an imaginary one. The school board, district administration, and building principal are responsible for supervising the staff and maintaining a proper balance among and within its programs.

I really don't have time to make a full critique of this article, but I will say it contains enough straw men and red herrings to open up a seafood restaurant for scarecrows. If you want a real argument in favor of sports, talk to a good wrestling coach. (Amazingly, the wrestling coaches at our school were always more willing to talk philosophy and literature than even my most clout-heavy colleagues in the English department.)

Beyond the apparent flaws of logic and emphasis in the article, there are many omissions, including the fact that classes are also decimated by AP testing, math and science competitions, band and choir trips, and last-ditch play rehearsals--all very worthwhile activities. The author also underplayed the most detrimental effect of school sports: the tendency to treat successful athletes in certains sports as a privileged class of student, a tendency that has contributed to all kinds of problems, including the Columbine disaster. But the worst omission is the author's failure to look at research that supports the inclusion of athletics in schools. This would include the now-proved connection between physical activity and learning. New research on the body-brain connection is beginning to explain why the cross country team has a high GPA and why Ralph Waldo Emerson couldn't do his best work without a daily ten-mile walk.

The magazine would do well to investigate these issues in greater depth. This article could be the springboard for better coverage, but I hope readers don't see it as the last word.

Since Mary Tedrow's essay is obviously an opinion piece, not a news feature, it's unfair to criticize it for failing to offer a comprehensive treatment of sports in high school. But "Interested" has a good suggestion about future coverage.

Ms. Tedrow's concerns seem to be focused on the potentially negative impact of "Big Sports" in high school. What percentage of students are involved in Big Sports? Surely there are more effective (and cheaper) ways to engage the student body in physical activity.

Gotta take a walk and think about this.

Notwithstanding the comments of Interested, I have to say that I strongly agree with the views set forh in this editorial. If I could magically change the curriculum at my school, I would immediately remove sport from the daily curricular schedule - and schedule all sport practices for after school hours, thus returning sport to its original status as an EXTRA-curricular activity; literally, outside the curriculum. School is school, not a training ground for "wannabe" professional athletes.

Of course, I will hear the tired old saw that "sport is the only thing that keeps some kids in school". Hmmm. It just so happens that those are the exact people (I will refrain from referring to them as students)who disrupt my classes, refuse to do their work (because they are going to be NFL and/or NBA stars and do not require "book learning"), and generally impede the educational process for all of the real students. I say, let them leave. They have no desire to be in school anyway.

The other issue is the absurd inequity between the pay for "coaches" and classroom teachers. The editorial was spot-on when relating the story of the highly qualified teacher who is passed over in favor of a lesser person who happens to hold a coaching endorsement. Furthermore, for some reason, coaches with only a bachelors degree are paid more than classroom teachers who hold masters, EdS., and even PhDs and EdD degrees.

Sport should be returned to its status of extra-curricular activity post-haste. This would add class offerings to the schedule, and if all competitions would be limited to Saturdays and Sundays, the sport-related classroom interruptions and absences would also be eliminated.

Of cours this will never happen, because the parents value sport more than they value academics. Until there is a fundamentl shift in cultural values, this problem will plague the public schools and classroom teachers forever.

Boy, Mary! Nothing like stepping into a mine field! For the last ten years of my career I've taught at a large 4-year high school. I see the zeal to go after a football coach who's also a English teacher. Problem? In our district, sports is an academic class -- last hour of the day! I'll repeat that. Sports meets the last hour of the school day! So, every coach who's hired means that academic department has lost his/her services for last hour. That requires those of us who do teach last hour to have larger classes, sometimes with kids who do not have any extra curricular interest in school at all. Motivation can be difficult. With the new requirements from the state (Oklahoma), kids can barely graduate with all the basics (now one of our legislators wants to mandate Personal Finances for all students before they graduate), and yet athletics stays in the school day. Over the next few years, we'll phase in more End-of-Instruction tests, to a grand total of seven! And yet, athletics stays in the school day.

Does that mean practices are over at 3:50? Of course not! Kids and coaches stay long after. I do not begrudge coaches their extra pay. They earn every bit of it. And, I wonder how many young men could afford to teach if not for extra duty coaching pay.

I see the benefits of athletics. I see those kids who keep their grades up so they can play. I see kids hoping for scholarships so they can go to college. I also see overcrowded classes,pressures to teach all the required courses so kids -- all kids -- have met graduation requirements, taken all their mandated classes and tests, and are prepared for college. Boy, I get tired even thinking about it!

Students need the opportunity to pursue a wide range of interests. The high school energy, social support and structure have traditionally allowed those things to be included. Any well supported popular non-athletic program will be in competition with the focus and resource of academics if they are not kept in perspective, but what better way is there to blend the interests and responsibilities of students than to include as many pursuits as possible? Ask the robotics club or band members where their focus are? It' not just sports, but wherrever the fancy of the students lie including social clubs (ie gangs and cliques). Sports are best managed as part of the whole spectrum of student opportunities then a separated entity.

Ever since I was in high school (in the 50's) I wondered why the grade requirements for athletes were so low. I could play football, wrestle, or swim at our school by having a "C" average. I haven't changed my thinking. Participation in sports at school needs to be tied to achievement. A "B" average requirement could get that in the schools where education is more important than sports.

We are concerned about how students from other nations routinely beat our students in various academic tests, and we bemoan the incompetence of American teachers and the American education system, but I rarely hear people point out that sports is never connected to schools in the rest of the world--only in the USA do schools incorporate sports into the school day, and only here do we allow students to be taken from class for sports activities. But it seems to me that those in the community who complain most loudly about the "failures" of the education system are the same people who scream bloody murder whenever we mention the possibility of removing sports from the curriculum.

"I rarely hear people point out that sports is never connected to schools in the rest of the world . . . "

Be careful when you use the word "never." Physical education, intramural sports, and yes, interscholastic sports do exist in other countries. There's a centuries-old tradition of school sports in Britain, where, it is said, "The British Empire was won on the playing fields of Eton." I'm not apologizing for the British Empire, which did an awful lot of damage in the past and is causing aftershocks today, but the real benefits of school athletics shouldn't be dismissed just because other cultures don't do things the way we do.

If an overemphasis on interscholastic sports and competition exists in your school or community, that culture can be modified. But we need to look to America and our own traditions and values rather than to the elitism of Europe or the conformity of Japan, for example, to find our way.

The idea that even "high-profile" high school sports are "in direct conflict with academic pursuits" just doesn't bear scrutiny. College sports might be another story, and many school systems have experienced sports-related corruption, but to condemn athletics in the way the article's author has done is misleading at best. Again, it's the administrators who, with input from all concerned, must set the priorities and see that they're followed.

I could not agree more with Mary Tedrow's comments. While it is true that there are valuable lessons to be learned from team work and competition, too often these opportunities are reserved for the select few that are "good enough" to make the team.
Varsity athletics frequently demand that kids be released from class for competitions, sometime 2-3 times in a week. Kids who miss classes where hands on activities are required, i.e. sciences, art, etc generally cannot make up work effectively outside of class.
We must remember that High Schools are not "Farm teams for the Pro's" Athletes are often sold a bill of goods, thinking that they can play professional sports, when in reality one in several thousand has that opportunity. In the meantime they sacrifice their opportunity to achieve in the classroom which has a definite impact on their future lives.

I could not agree more with Mary Tedrow's comments. While it is true that there are valuable lessons to be learned from team work and competition, too often these opportunities are reserved for the select few that are "good enough" to make the team.
Varsity athletics frequently demand that kids be released from class for competitions, sometime 2-3 times in a week. Kids who miss classes where hands on activities are required, i.e. sciences, art, etc generally cannot make up work effectively outside of class.
We must remember that High Schools are not "Farm teams for the Pro's" Athletes are often sold a bill of goods, thinking that they can play professional sports, when in reality one in several thousand has that opportunity. In the meantime they sacrifice their opportunity to achieve in the classroom which has a definite impact on their future lives.

I am the mother of wrestlers. Three to be exact. Indeed, it was refreshing when we went to a tournament in Hughsville PA. As we entered, the halls were lined with the Hall of Fame Athletes, we have all become so accustomed to seeing, but interspersed were pictures of the State Choral Place winners and other notable academic or arts oriented students. Inside, the sides of the scoreboards did the same. On the far left board, the season's basketball and wrestling teams were named. But on the far right board, were the National Merit Scholars and Student Government Members. I have spoken of my "Hughsville experience" on many occasions. Other schools, such as Parkland High School, Orefield PA; Liberty High School, Bethlehem PA and William Allen High School, Allentown PA offer recognition for sports and art programs alike. I have seen their reader boards congratulate National Merit Scholars and Championship Swimmers alike.

Ultimately it is leadership. Leadership which does not always come from the top, but must be driven by interested parties, faculty, students or parents.

What would you do differently?

Oh, my gosh! I can't believe someone actually has the courage to write such heresy. Years ago when I suggested to a principal (ex-coach, of course) that he encourage a star athlete to actually attend my class in order to pass, the student was changed to the class of a more compliant teacher. There are NO athletic programs in European or Asian school systems and the students there flourish quite well. This will never happen sadly for many reasons but I think mainly because too many ex-coaches become administrators. But it would be great if at least the same recognition could be given to star students that is now given only the athletes.

The point about former coaches becoming administrators is well-made. EVERY administrator in our district was a coach. I think that coaches should be barred from being adminstrators. Only experienced, classroom teachers (10+ years being chewed up and spat out) should be eligible to be adminstrators. That might hep ease the dominance of sport in the public schools.

But nothing will significantly change until there is a culutural shift towards the deification of teaching and academic success.

Kudos! My kids are pepped to death! We have had two pep rallies in as many weeks at my school. We have had at least six this year! I teach creative writing during the last block of the day and it's gotten to the point where kids would rather stay in my class than go to another pep rally, yet I have to force them all to attend against their will (and mine). I don't know if I want to go on record saying that we should remove sports from schools (at least not until I have tenure), but I would definitely back better planning to keep athletics from interfering with the academics.

I am just wondering if schools exist because of athletics, or do athletics exist becuase of schools?

Interested wrote:
I'm not apologizing for the British Empire, which did an awful lot of damage in the past and is causing aftershocks today, but the real benefits of school athletics shouldn't be dismissed just because other cultures don't do things the way we do.


You know, Interested, I'm not sure anyone has dismissed the benefits of school athletics here. Instead, it seems as if people are questioning the emphasis that they get in school after school around our country.

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to visit a high school in another state. While I was in the library, I saw literally hundreds of trophies on display. Every single one was an athletic trophy. When I asked about the other areas of the school, I was told by the well-intentioned principal that "sports is king here at our high school, and those trophies prove it."

Can that be healthy?

Another anecdote: Our district used to hold a huge reading competition each year for sixth, seventh and eigth graders known as Battle of the Books. Students worked on teams to read a list of titles and then competed against teams from other schools to see how well they knew their books.

One year, I took a group of super motivated--although somewhat nerdy--girls to our competition. One girl's father came to me with tears in his eyes, thankful to have the opportunity to watch his daughter compete. "I'm a competitive guy," he said, "And this was finally something we could share together."

The competition was scaled back---and almost killed---by almost 60% the next year because of cost. Do you think the High School football tournament was cut back?

I guess the feeling I get from this strand is what messages do we send to our students about the importance of what they do in the classroom when everything that happens outside the classroom seems to be celebrated at unreasonable levels?

Interesting questions...
Bill

Thanks for stating what I've been thinking for a long time. Why don't we move sports out of the schools into the community where they belong?!

It's interesting that several have noted the absence of sports in European countries. I must confess that, though I regularly feel slighted as a teacher interested in improving students academically, I had not thought of alternatives to our current schedule until I had an exchange student from Spain. She seemed puzzled by the inclusion of sporting teams in our school since sports were always part of the community in her home country. She also told me that school ended much earlier in the day because of the intensive attention to the academics.
Remember, too, that not every sport is celebrated in a school setting. My daughter rode horses. That meant she had to eschew many of the "conventional" activities surrounding school and missed out on much of the community building aspect that surrounds the big competitions. My own sport, gymnastics, is no longer supported by schools and places those students outside the community as well. I'm proud to say that my daughter's non-school sanctioned sport led to her current occupation. She's a veterinarian.

Having been a classroom teacher and coach for 38 years I find this article shallow, accusatory and falt wrong. I have taught in three states. From rural schools, to inner-city, to suburban schools. Small, medium and large. What I have found is that what athletes do in classroom is determined by parents, teachers and coaches. As a teacher I was glad to have another adult concerned about the academic progress of my student athlete.

We do not get out of school to practice or go to contests. Playoffs are sometimes different if you advance. We hold study halls for our players. These are mandatory. We get tutoring for them. We demand that they attend class and school or they don't play. At no time in any school has athletics been placed above academics. It has been my experience that athletics can help students be more disciplined and goal oriented.

I'm sorry many of you have schools that promote athletics above academics. From 1968 until 2007 that has not been my expereince even in the football crazy south. Oh, I hope your journalism class is after school because we would not want the student newspaper, the yearbook, the band or the debate team to miss class time when they could be preparing for state tests. LOL

As a Special Education/Social Studies Teacher and a coach, I have had a very positive experience with student athletes. At my high school, most coaches make it a priority to send a roster to every teacher with the message: "These are the athletes on my team. If any of these athletes are causing behavior problems or are not doing well in my class, please let me know". All I have to do as a teacher is let the coach know this student is not doing well and I know that most of the time, the issue will be dealt with and my student will cease the negative behavior/lack of academic effort in my class.

As a Special Education Teacher, I have been able to get several of my shy, interverted students to go out for sports. The difference pre sports participation/post sports participation has been remarkable. As students who often feel left out or that they don't fit in, they have found acceptance and satisifaction through sports participation. I also have students who have gone out for the school play or joined a club with similar results. My conclusion, Sports aren't the problem. A good administration and supportive teaching staff will address and work through issues. Yes, you still might have the star athlete receiving special treatment but I see this more as part of a culture that pays athletes and actors millions of dollars to play and teachers much much less.

Indeed, AMEN, to Mary's commentary! In my 20 years of classroom teaching two incidents stand out that support her contention that high school athletics should truly be EXTRA-curricular, and both of these are from the teaching side of the issue.

First story: I applied for an advertised AP Biology position at another high school within my district. In talking to a friend at that school, he made the comment that the school was also looking for a soccer coach. When I went to the interview and I had the chance to ask questions, I asked if I would have to coach any sport? In response, the principal asked if I could coach and I said no. I found out later that the teacher who was hired was a soccer coach and that they had asked another teacher in the department to teach the AP course.

Second story: I had a student as a 9th grader and again as a junior in my science classes. He barely passed the 9th grade physical science course, failed his sophomore biology course, and was back in my class to get a second science credit to graduate. His sophomore biology teacher was the assistant head football coach with aspirations to be a head football coach. (He left at the end of that student's sophomore year to pursue that goal.) As this student and I talked over the year, he told me that the previous year's course had consisted of the following routine during the football season:
Monday-Talk about the game the previous Friday and pass a worksheet for homework.
Tuesday-Give time in class to complete the worksheet and then go over the answers.
Wednesday-Discuss the worksheet in more detail and/or do a lab related to the worksheet.
Thursday-Review the worksheet
Friday-Give a test over the worksheet and in the time remaining in class, talk about the football game that night.

Really motivating, wouldn't you say, particularly for fringe students? I don't lump all coaches who teach academic courses into this former colleagues corner, because I have known a few outstanding teacher/coaches but. . .they are generally even more rare than months with "blue moons"-a full-moon twice in the same month. I've heard it said, "Those who can teach, teach; those who can't become administrators."

Tiger68--Wow, some venom at the end of your message. Journalism and band during the school day is NOTHING like sports during the school day. I don't know about your school, but journalism and yearbook are considered English electives. Band and chorus and orchestra fulfill the fine arts requirement mandated by our state, and debate may as well. If not, it fulfills the academic electives requirement. With more and more 'interference' from the state and federal legislatures, helping kids get all the requirements they need to graduate is a real balancing act. Moving athletics out of the school day gives student more options...maybe they can be musicians and athletes...journalists and athletes. In case that pro football coach doesn't come knocking on the door...

I've seen many special ed students struggling with academics and feelings of inadequacy given an opportunity to excel at athletics and feel successful. Without the athletic piece they'd just be struggling students. I can't imagine that people think that's what education is about.

Very nice article. And you describe the situation quite accurately. As Chair of our Academic Boosters organization I get frustrated quite often with this disparity (and I went to college on a football scholarship, so I do recognize the benefits of sports). One example; at our first Academic Awards ceremony this year the athletes on the A/B honor roll were all called to the stage individually and given certificates. No other A/B students were recognized this way, even those who competed on the Dance Team, Marching Band or "It's Academic" team (and, to me, any student who takes their school colors into a competition deserves the same recognition). Otherwise only straight A students were called up, and all they got was a hearty handshake - no certificate. Why? Because sports are acknowledged to be such a hindrance to academics that academic success by an athlete is to be celebrated beyond that of a non-athlete.
And it's not only in our schools that this bias is shown. I've twice taken a week's editions of the "Washington Post" and measured the column inches devoted to both high school sports and HS academics. The disparity is startling. Both times sports were given an average of 75 column inches a day - with remarkable consistency day-to-day - while academics averaged slightyly less than ten inches a day, and varied hugely from none to twenty-five inches. This bias is everywhere, and is everywhere misplaced.
Thank you for stating this so well. I hope the ensuing dialogue will lead to this being changed. Sports need not be devalued, but academics do need to be raised to stand alongside.

If all students could go out for sports like all students can take English, history, science, and etc., be on the team and get to participate in every game I might not have any comment to the article. I am at a small school, but it is amazing the resouces that are available to a small percent of the student population. If a coach does not want a particular student in their class, they can keep them from being on the team. Try doing that in your English class.
I think it would be a great thing to remove competitive sports from school schedules.

My daughters play field hockey and softball. They also are extremely good students, play in the orchestra and are involved in other "non-sports" activities. This week the orchestra is having a concert and both will miss class for practice during the school day. In our district it is not uncommon for students to be pulled from class for any variety of non-sport activities.

My daughters' involvement in sports has given them a self-confidence that I wish I could have had during my adolescent years. There have been studies to back up what I have witnessed first hand. Sports can be a wonderful way to build self-esteem and leadership skills in girls.

At the risk of pitting some sports against others, I don't think it is fair to say we treat all student atheletes the same way. As a substitute teacher years ago, when I gave detention to a football player (during football season) it was big news. I doubt that anyone would have blinked an eye had I given detention to a member of the girls volleyball team or to a wrestler. When you look past football, boys basketball and maybe baseball, most student atheletes have no delusions about turning pro.

In response to the Science Curriculum Specialsist . . . Boy, Mr. Patterson you have some nerve! I would like to congratulate you on your candor. For some of us it does seem that those who are incompetent in motivating students are most often the most "capable" of administration. Because I am a lateral entry teacher from the "real world" of healthcare, I can see definite parallels in education. Those who were ineffective at patient care, and failed to promote a positive view of their facility, were frequently "promoted out" of the area so as not to cause further embarassment. I have seen uninterested, and non-compliant, classroom teachers encouraged to pursue positions away from students, for the same reasons. If they were incompetent in one spot, would it not seem clear that this might be a chronic problem? However, not all administrators are incompetent, as suredly as not all coaches are "bad teachers".

I agree with many of the other respondents that academics do indeed take a back seat. I also understand and appreciate the importance of athletics and feel that like many of you this has become quite a problem. In my opinion, these are two separate issues.

Because I am not an athlete, I feel that I harbor resentment for those with this "status"; possibly the reason for the problem in the first place. Our society is more geared towards classicism than we want to admit. Maybe our feelings are prejudices carried forth from our days in school, when we felt left out because we were not the "star quarterback". What about the difference in the support female athletes receive? Is that not another "thorn" we could try to remove?

How about some reality orientation for everyone? Make your students and athletes proud of what they can accomplish and help them make realistic goals for their future. After all, the reason we are in school to begin with is because we care about the kids, right? Let's help them understand how the world really works!

In response to the Science Curriculum Specialsist . . . Boy, Mr. Patterson you have some nerve! I would like to congratulate you on your candor. For some of us it does seem that those who are incompetent in motivating students are most often the most "capable" of administration. Because I am a lateral entry teacher from the "real world" of healthcare, I can see definite parallels in education. Those who were ineffective at patient care, and failed to promote a positive view of their facility, were frequently "promoted out" of the area so as not to cause further embarassment. I have seen uninterested, and non-compliant, classroom teachers encouraged to pursue positions away from students, for the same reasons. If they were incompetent in one spot, would it not seem clear that this might be a chronic problem? However, not all administrators are incompetent, as suredly as not all coaches are "bad teachers".

I agree with many of the other respondents that academics do indeed take a back seat. I also understand and appreciate the importance of athletics and feel that like many of you this has become quite a problem. In my opinion, these are two separate issues.

Because I am not an athlete, I feel that I harbor resentment for those with this "status"; possibly the reason for the problem in the first place. Our society is more geared towards classicism than we want to admit. Maybe our feelings are prejudices carried forth from our days in school, when we felt left out because we were not the "star quarterback". What about the difference in the support female athletes receive? Is that not another "thorn" we could try to remove?

How about some reality orientation for everyone? Make your students and athletes proud of what they can accomplish and help them make realistic goals for their future. After all, the reason we are in school to begin with is because we care about the kids, right? Let's help them understand how the world really works!

What a brave soul Mary was to dare to critique the role of sports since it is clearly such a polarizing topic. One thing she said matches up with my own personal experience....only a small number of students "get" to participate and the number gets smaller and smaller with each passing year of high school. By the time a kid is a senior, they must be a highly skilled athelete or they really don't have a place to use their talents. I guess you can add more kids to the number if you count the supporting roles that the cheerleaders and bands play during football and basketball season.

I also agreed with the comments about coaches as teachers vs teachers as coaches. I experienced zero coaches who was good teacher when my own children went through high school. On the whole, at their high school I prayed that they wouldn't be assigned the coaches for their teachers. While they may have loved classes because of the stories and fun....the learning left much to be desired. I have always wondered why we don't contract out coaching...find the best coaches we can and not handicap them with having to teach. Maybe we should revisit the requirement that coaches need to be certified teachers. I know that my son played very competitive soccer...his club coach was much more talented and skilled than the high school coach. The boys hated to play for the HS because coach didn't know as much....mostly they looked at the HS season as a way to stay in shape until the "real" season began with club/tournament play. I think it is very much the same way with HS students who are serious tennis players and swimmers. By contracting out the coaching or by removing sports from high school kids would have much more flexibility to seek out a team that matches with their skill set and maximizes their ability to contribute to the team.

See...I think there are great reasons to set sports free from the confines of school!!!!!! And benefits to the school to improve the academic climate with the freedom to hire people who want to teach instead of people who teach because they want to coach.

It is really dissappointing to hear our 'teaching corp' so widely misinformed and misguided. I've taught English and Math as well as being a Varsity Football Coach (the most evil of all). We build curriculum, we create clubs and we preach on a daily basis about the harms of stereotyping yet there are still articles like this one and opinions like some other 'teachers' here to contradict it all. Stereotyping, put simply, is a small detail generalized to apply to all situations. All sports programs take away from academics at every school in every community. Coaches are not as important as teachers because they are not teaching academics. I've fought very hard my entire life as an athlete (4 yr letter, Academic All-Conference, Top Team GPA 6 our of 8 semesters, BA+Minor in 5 years, Cum Laude, MEd all on a nationally ranked team) and now as a coach to fight the stereotype of the 'dumb jock' only to find the teachers themselves perpetuating it. It saddens me that there are still educators who don't see the benefits of a well run, well organized, properly focused athletic program. As with all all stereotypes, it demeans and reduces the majority of hard working, caring, academic minded coaches to simple, callous, thugs. Instead of playing the game of who is more important, shouldn't we, the teaching corp of America, teach a consistent message--Stereotyping is harmful and wrong.

It is really dissappointing to hear our 'teaching corp' so widely misinformed and misguided. I've taught English and Math as well as being a Varsity Football Coach (the most evil of all). We build curriculum, we create clubs and we preach on a daily basis about the harms of stereotyping yet there are still articles like this one and opinions like some other 'teachers' here to contradict it all. Stereotyping, put simply, is a small detail generalized to apply to all situations. All sports programs take away from academics at every school in every community. Coaches are not as important as teachers because they are not teaching academics. I've fought very hard my entire life as an athlete (4 yr letter, Academic All-Conference, Top Team GPA 6 our of 8 semesters, BA+Minor in 5 years, Cum Laude, MEd all on a nationally ranked team) and now as a coach to fight the stereotype of the 'dumb jock' only to find the teachers themselves perpetuating it. It saddens me that there are still educators who don't see the benefits of a well run, well organized, properly focused athletic program. As with all all stereotypes, it demeans and reduces the majority of hard working, caring, academic minded coaches to simple, callous, thugs. Instead of playing the game of who is more important, shouldn't we, the teaching corp of America, teach a consistent message--Stereotyping is harmful and wrong.

Try not to think of this argument as an either/or proposition but as an and/and construct. I like coaches, I like sports, I like athletes. I don't like instructional time sacrificed to sports. Separate the two, clearly, so as to cause less confusion to our youth. Both activities are worthwhile. One should not supercede the other. How many coaches would let me pull their star athlete mid-game for instruction in reading? That kind of interruption happens routinely in my classroom instruction. How many football teams would want to be forced to take the bookish calculus instructor who prefers to spend practice time grading papers as an assistant coach? These decisions are made in reverse when instructional dollars must stretch to accommodate huge sports schedules along with academics. Let's be fair and honest. Who wins the struggle at your school?

While I appreciate your position, it sounds more like an isolated incident at your particular school and an issue that you have with your administration and your athletic department. Again, the big picture here is you are assuming that all schools are like yours--you are stereotyping.

In my school, academics are primary. In my football program, academics are first priority. They are student-athletes and treated as such. My school is no haven for 'future pro athletes' who are taking AP classes. It has a 45% free-reduced lunch rate with a very good mix of ethnicity. It in is a working class town that has a proud tradition of success through hard work. By the same token, what if someone questioned your method of teaching a student to write an essay or disparaged your choice of novel for a student to read as useless and unnecessary? You would, I hope, take slight offense to it. I take offense at your broad brush statements about coaches. I challenge anyone who feels that sports and athletics are a frivolous venture to spend some time with the team and with the players getting to know them outside of the classroom, who they are and where they come from. We don't get the opportunity in the classroom (especially now with standardized tests looming). These kids are more than just what they produce in a classroom just like good teachers are more than they are just at school.

While I completely disagree with your position, I actually empathize with you. It is unfortunate that you have not had the positive experience of working with a quality athletic department and coaching staff. You can disagree, you can even dislike your situation but to apply that to all situations is irresponsible. Again, stereotyping is harmful and wrong because you now see an athlete and treat them differently based on other people's actions. A questionable place to be as a teacher.

To Teacher & Coach: Ms. Tedrow is not stereotyping, nor is she generalising. Go back and re-read all of these posts. Pretty consistent list of similar experiences. If you are at a public school where academics is paramount, I am pleased for you - and amazed that such a place exists. Private schools, yes, but public schools? Not from my experience and observations. I stand by my position - remove sport from the curriculum. Far too much money is being wasted on far too few students.

And as an earlier poster noted, would it not be the best of all worlds if I could just choose to cut people from class if they failed to meet my expectations?

That is how it SHOULD be in academics, IMHO.

Mr. Phillips,

I disagree with your definition of stereotyping. It is unfortunate that you have such animosity towards sports. If I was to broad brush all English teachers with such venom, I would be vilified and labeled close minded and ignorant. However, it is perfectly acceptable to do this to coaches (and to some degree athletes). Again, it is dissappointing that educators harbor such close-minded opinions. Again, if you noticed, I chose to write my title as Teacher first, coach second. I feel my role as a teacher continues on the playing field. I know my staff and many of my colleagues hold teachers in high regard for what they do and bring to a child's life. It is unfortunate that some can't reciprocate.

I've exhausted myself responding to these messages and leave a little frustrated with the relationship between educators and sports I've encountered. It is obvious that I need to continue to provide a positive example of how sports and education can co-exist. I wish you the best and hope that those who feel sports can't work in schools think about the student before they immediately judge them for being an athlete. There are always exceptions to the rule but hopefully, as educators, we try to find the positive rather than the negative.

I appreciate the forum and hope it has made some people think.

Nathan Gillam
Head Football Coach
Bremerton High School
Bremerton, WA

Thank you Coach Gillam for enlightning us on how athletics and academics should co-exist?!? Born `n raised in the back woods of North Texas Football is King and athletics ,as a whole, has a complete an awe-inspiring dominance over academics. I often missed up to 4 days of scheduled class during the spring to compete in "extra-curricular" activities. I played everything with a proud fever. Basketball, Football, Tennis, power-lifting, baseball and, did I mention three-a-days for football all of which severly hurt me throughout my academic career. Though rarely, if ever, did my 2A school tell me I wasn't going pro nay, I as most other athletes in rural Texas was told that as long as we kept winning I'd pass alright enough and get my shot in college. Coach Gillam you speak of a "sports utopia" that simply doesn't exist here and most likely not anywhere. So while I applaud your efforts please remember that what you have doesn't exist beyond your own little world. I was lucky and I do play for SMU as an offensive lineman but many of my friends who bought into the same line of crap now mow lawns for a living. If a little stereotyping is necessary to right the wrongs athletics in high school has created then I would have expected someone with your views of a better relationship between school and sports would be the last to speak against change!


You are so brave to publish such an obvious,but unpopular opinion. Yes, there is the rare intellectual coach as in "I actually had a good teacher who was also a coach." In general, hiring experiences are more like some have stated. Most teachers are hired because they will coach a sport even though the pressure is on for them to take tests and continuing education. As the teaching standards have risen, it is so much harder to find a good teacher. Many of these marginal teacher/coaches' licenses are "running out".
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On the flip side, there are so many great coaches who would not want to teach. My daughter has been in YMCA sports and other community groups. If that money could go there for pay, coaches could have other careers besides "teaching science and math". I believe we could get better coaches for our kids and better sports programs. Once the sports programs get to Middle School level, they are tailored for just a few students.
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I think this is just for grownups to extend their childhood. Meanwhile, we blame the teachers (not the coaches or the administration.)

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