Unfortunately, sports has become a fuel that seems to drive our culture. Accomplished athletes are worshipped as gods, are paid exorbitant salaries and are willing to use any means necessary (legal and illegal) to rise to the top. It seems that each day there is a news report about an athlete who has beaten his wife, used a performance-enhancing drug or is being fined for cheating or poor sportsmanship. These are our role models and young children want to play the sports of their role models. From young ages, parents are enticed to sign their children up for classes and teams in the hopes that they will show promise. Unfortunately, club owners and community sports associations know this and they pull parents in with promises of excellent training and development. Time and money are no objects for the parents when it comes to the child’s happiness. The child is groomed and trained and may or may not eventually play the sport in high school. And if they play in high school, maybe there will be a college scholarship!?!
According to NCAA.org, about 8 million students are currently playing high school sports. And, of those students, 460,000 will go onto college sports. Yes, that is a dismal 5.75% of students that may end up playing college sports. Scholarships are even more miniscule. Only 2% of high school students will earn scholarships and those are usually under $11,000 (cbsnews.com).
So, while sports is an enticing reason to go to public school, it should be low on the list of reasons. An education should be the top reason and while some school systems can offer a good education, the school system, itself, is often at the mercy of the various sports that it sponsors. Teachers have to accommodate students who have to leave class for games and practices. Concussions seem to permeate every sport, creating more work for teachers (to tutor and keep the child up on the material). Cheerleaders fall off of pyramids, band members (yes, band is just about a sport!) are hit in the head with instruments, basketball players take charges and end up with stitches and football players have the highest concussion stats of all, followed by women’s soccer (huffingtonpost.com). (Yes, these are personal examples from my husband’s school and our personal life.) Also, school funding of sports often cuts into other important budget items. Fairfax County Public Schools (Virginia) must find ways to cut $80 million from their 2015-2016 budget. In addition to cutting sports department funding and coaching staff, they are considering charging fees for children to do sports. In the past, these sports were completely funded by the school system, causing a drag on the county’s budget. (WUSA 9, September 9, 2015)
In a recent discussion with a friend, she shared that her daughter was only going to play club soccer next year. The reason? College recruiters have stopped visiting so many high schools and have started to visit club sports organizations when recruiting for college. I decided to check this out and discovered that club tournaments and competitions provide just the sort of ‘showcase’ to see multiple talented players (Recruitingcode.com). So, the smart athlete will forego high school sports and play at club level.
OK…time to step off the ‘sports soapbox.’ Our family has personally experienced this. We were once caught up in a club sport with one of our children. The money and time spent could have been invested in a college education. Over the 10 years that we invested in this sport, we could have saved a considerable amount of money and time. But that is in the past. We are now invested in other things…education, music, family activity homeschool and church communities.
I don’t mean to belittle the interests of children or the desire of parents to provide opportunities for their children. We, ourselves, have seriously considered this reason (playing sports in high school) as we think about the education of our own children. However, in this culture of sports addiction, crazy dance moms, cheating scandals and poor sportsmanship, I think that we need to rethink this ‘sports’ reason as a solid one for putting our children INTO public schools.
The good news is that there are options springing up for homeschooled students. Frederick has a homeschool football team, two basketball teams and a cross-country team. Carroll County has a volleyball team and a football team. Students are given the opportunity to play the game, to have an outlet for exercise. The teams encourage sportsmanship and encourage Christian values. Fellowship of Christian Athletes offers workshops, conferences and local groups for fellowship and Bible study to home schooled and public schooled students.
Perhaps as homeschoolers, we can redeem even the ‘sports industry’ for Christ. It is not a bad thing to condition our bodies, to play and to compete. But rarely is it done for God’s glory!