This will be blasphemous to the academicians out there, but I firmly believe it.
Just as important as the classrooms and text books are the ballfields and gyms.
Education is a life-altering pursuit, but the lessons learned from practices and games are what get us through life.
Earlier this month at a meeting of the Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association, Ohio High School Athletic Association Commissioner Dan Ross spoke about the importance of high school athletics on a grander scale.
“I believe high school sports should be about kids having fun, kids participating, kids learning a game and kids learning life lessons. What life lessons are they going to learn? Team work, camaraderie … commitment, dedication, all those pieces,” he said.
Ross said he saw results of a survey of Fortune 500 CEOs and roughly 90 percent were former athletes.
“Most of them will tell you that the lessons they learned from athletics are the things that helped them get to where they are today more so than what happened to them in the classroom,” Ross said.
Ross isn’t anti-education. A former elementary school teacher and for 21 years a superintendent at three different school districts in Ohio, he has seen the difference education can make in lives.
“My belief is the academic work that kids do is the crown jewel, and we’re an integral part of that, but we’re the icing on the cake. We’re not the cake,” he said.
I would say if classwork is the cake, then extracurriculars are the ice cream, not just the icing.
Whether it’s sports, cheerleading, music, drama or some other outside pursuit, much can be gained from the experiences. Classrooms and text books are great at feeding knowledge. Schoolwork teaches how to think and how to reason. Homework reenforces study habits and builds on the foundation of knowledge. Tests and exams and reports are where progressed is measured.
But sports are where we see these lessons get played out in real time and in life situations.
“Our game isn’t about who wins. Our game is about what lessons did you learn in this journey through your experience of playing high school sports,” Ross said. “It is important and it is things they will be carrying with them for the rest of their lives.”
We’re all going to get called out by a boss, just like coaches do. We’re all going to lean on co-workers and be leaned on as well, just like teammates do. We’re all going have successes and failures, and how we handle triumph and adversity can best be learned in athletics.
“Our job is to prepare kids for the next level of life. I want them to come back to your communities and be the next doctors and mailmen and teachers and coaches,” Ross said. “If they go to Major League Baseball or the NBA or the NFL, that’s a wonderful thing. But stop and think about it. How many of you know anybody in your community that that’s happened. It’s a handful.
“One percent of the kids are going to get a (Division I) scholarship and one percent are going to get a DII scholarship, and DI and DII are the ones that are paid for. Why in the world would we develop a program that leaves 96.4 percent of the kids out because that’s what you do. Our job is to help prepare them for (life after high school).
“I want them to make great decisions when they get out (of high school) and to be great citizens in your communities To do that we have to work really, really hard to make sure those opportunities are there for those kids.”
Over the coming weeks and months, this is a topic I want to look at in our community.
I want to talk to people in big business and small business. I want to talk to clergy and government workers. I want to talk to doctors and lawyers. I want to talk to middle-managers and those who work in the trades. The one common denominator with all will be an involvement in athletics as a youngster.
These people don’t need to be former All-Ohioans or all-leaguers. Anyone who wore a uniform and put in the time will suffice.
I want to know how their professional lives are impacted by the lessons learned from high school athletics.
My guess is much was gained from the experience of extracurriculars, more than can ever be measured on a transcript.
Rob McCurdy is a sports writer at the News Journal and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-521-7241. On Twitter follow @McMotorsport.
Calling all former athletes
Did you play high school sports? What lessons did you learn along the way? How do you apply those lessons today? What specific examples can you cite? Stars and benchwarmers are equally welcome because it’s not about what you did on the field or in the gym, it’s about what you gained from the experience that interests me. Those who want to impart their wisdom for a feature story are encouraged to reach me by email at email@example.com, on Twitter @McMotorsport or by phone at 419-521-7241.
— Rob McCurdy