The Importance of Athletics to Education

W. Stephen Parker
W. Stephen Parker
Middle and High School Principal; MA in Educational Leadership
Referee calling a touchdown at a high school football game with players on the field.

The importance of athletics to education is multi-faceted. In this article, we will touch on a few of the reasons athletics can and do support the educational process. Athletics, at its core, gives opportunities for learning in a way that the typical classroom simply cannot mirror.

Repetition of Terminology and Concepts

Through stringent practice, student athletes learn the terminologies of the sport they are participating in, as well as the concepts coaches are teaching them, to be successful on the athletic venue. The same can be said for the classroom teacher who teaches terminology pursuant to a certain concept. Upon learning the terminology, students and student athletes can better understand the concepts coaches and teachers are placing before them. The student athlete can take the approach of a practice session and apply it to his classroom to enhance learning.

School Spirit and a Sense of Belonging

Athletics at its base is fun and exciting both for the participants, as well as those who come to spectate. An athletic team can and often does bring pride and the sense of being a part of something even if the person is “just a spectator”. A student may very well, with a sense of pride, talk of how “we” won our game this past Friday night. This student, though isn’t even on the team, was simply a spectator amongst the crowd. However, because his school’s team won, he proudly proclaims, “we won.”

Why is this important, you may ask? Because everyone is looking for something that makes them feel as if they belong. When this spirit spills over into an entire student body, it has been my experience that the overall educational process thrives right along with the team. I have also witnessed over the years that even teams that may not be winning every week are still looked at with a sense of pride by the student body, faculty, and staff that they represent.

Community Pride in the School District

Athletic teams that represent a school or school district also have an impact on the community. When athletics are successful, the community mostly sees the entire district as successful. This is often seen even when the team is not winning, but honestly more so when they are. Hey, everybody loves a winner, right? When people or groups of people discuss athletics, and then ultimately the schools as a whole, in a positive light, these same people groups are more apt to lend support when asked by the district for help. Just like the student that does not participate except for attending athletic events, people in the community refer to events at the school with an attitude of “we”. By gaining that positive light from the community, schools have even more support to strive for athletic as well as academic excellence.

Athletics Brings Opportunities for Others to Participate

Truth be told, only a small percentage of most student bodies actually participate directly in athletic events. However, many students are allowed opportunities to be a part of something through other areas that athletics makes available and build a positive school culture and community. Some of these are support groups for athletics and others use athletic events to showcase their talents. Listed below are a few of these groups that athletics gives opportunities:

  1. Cheerleaders
  2. Band
  3. Flag Squads
  4. Pom Squads
  5. Mascots
  6. ROTC Drill Teams
  7. Team Managers

In addition athletic events are venues that can be used to showcase students and teachers for academic accomplishments. Often during time outs and halftimes, these accomplishments are announced, not only to the student body attending, but to the entire community and visitors from the opposing team.

Athletics and Education, I’m a Fan

Athletics and education working in conjunction with each other can enhance the lives of everyone involved. Students have opportunities to excel in either or both. As educators, it is our charge to help each and every student become the most well rounded person they can be. Athletics brings the aforementioned benefits to education and, depending on the situation, so much more. Yes, I’m a fan of athletics, but more importantly, I’m a fan of the student. The student comes first! Always!

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