Updated 11/12: I'm moving this up because it's getting some comments as of late. Sorry for not posting, but school and life is very busy. Teaching takes priority from blogging. I'm sure you understand.
Mr. McNamar at The Daily Grind has offered up an interesting post; why not eliminate high school sports? His reasons:
1) Budget cuts.
2) The climate is anti-coach.
3) No accountability by administration.
Up until about 4 years ago, I would have thought that Mr. McNamar was nuts. I learned more about real life from my basketball team than I did in any classroom I was in. I've used basketball to acquire my love for work, my passion for competition, and my love for seeing kids succeed. It was an excellent thing for me.....many years ago.
Now I'm half-way (maybe more) towards Mr. McNamar's argument. Don't get me wrong, I totally believe that athletics should be a part of high school, just not in the current state at my school. Athletics should be Advanced Placement Physical Education, and it should be treated that way. However, it's not. Instead, sports are treated like a separate entity that lies within the property lines of the campus. Coaches are supposed to act like teachers, but aren't treated as such. Coaches work longer days, but aren't paid as much. Coaches are more one-on-one with parents, but aren't given the same support.
I disagree with the idea that the money isn't there. Make it "there". Physical education is monumentally important and I can think of plenty of things to cut that I feel are not nearly as important as the health of the body of a child. But McNamar's numbers 2 through 5 are pretty much dead on.
2. The climate is anti-coach: Every parent knows everything there is to know about the sport because they coached little league, or they coached their son for years. Therefore, the coach must know nothing. And since the coach actually does this for a living, the coach must be stupid and must be removed because Daddy is living through their child.
3. There is limited accountability: We wouldn't allow a parent to come into a classroom and cuss out a teacher. Why do we allow parents to do so at athletic events? There is a format to follow if you have a complaint against a teacher, but a coaching complaint goes right to the top, for some reason. And worse, the administration actually listens. I'm still waiting for someone to say, "Your son doesn't get playing time on the Varsity team because he's not as good as the 8 guys ahead of him. We have full faith in the coach. When the child earns it, he will play. Have a nice day." A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle explained that teachers in California were leaving in droves. Why? General support. Get this: Coaching is worse.
4. Entitlement: This is a problem everywhere in education, but it is magnified in athletics. One athlete once called every recommendation I gave him "criticism". When I asked him if he had been praised all his life he said, "Pretty much". Memo to all kids out there, nobody "owes" you anything.
5. Parents: They feel way too empowered, and are screwing up high school athletics.
Which leads me to the idea of going the European route. Drop high school athletics and let the parents get a club together, all the while letting them create this oh-so-impressive program that they feel they can whip out of the air. That way they get complete control and can hire and fire anyone they want at will. Sure, the real students that need the sports won't really get exposed to them since the club will cost a fee (what, you think the district is going to fund you? They won't be funding us this year!), and you will have to drop over half the programs because you really can't find qualified coaches (the high school can't keep coaches), but you'll find some way to figure it out. Don't forget Title IX type laws, ADA laws, or the fact that athletics isn't just about "The Big Three" (baseball, basketball, football). You need to offer those sports that don't make any money as well. You know, golf, diving, tennis, freshmen sports.
But sadly, I'd vote on something like this because coaches are not treated like teachers, yet are held to the same standard. Unfortunately, parents are less irate about Johnny failing Government, than Johnny not getting at least 5 minutes a game on the basketball court. Until schools take, and I mean take, back control of athletics, it just isn't worth it.