Trying to Understand the School Sporting Culture

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kids-playing-soccerAccording to Richard D. Ginsburg, PhD in Psychology in Sport, “While there are certainly many wonderful youth athletic leagues and teams around our country, there is an ugliness gaining momentum in our youth sport culture. Tryouts and travel teams are cropping up earlier than ever before. My son, who is an eight-year-old second grader, had to decide whether or not he wanted to try out for the travel soccer team. Really? This is when my son needs to decide whether he is going to be “serious” about soccer – otherwise, he may miss the boat? Isn’t there something wrong with this picture?”

Read more about what he has to say on the subject at: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2ioXCP/:2rxybmCH:h2_!UItS/www.psychologytoday.com/blog/just-listen/200911/10-habits-happy-couples/

Are High School Sports Over-Funded?

SONY DSCChildren that move to the United States from other countries are consistently surprised about one unique feature of the American school system, the importance school sports plays in the lives of students here. As one student who moved here from South Korea explained:
“Sports are a big deal here.”
She is talking about her New Jersey high school, Shawnee High. This school, which is typical, has 18 different sports teams, including golf and bowling. They have six tennis courts, beautiful grassy fields, and even a Hall of Fame.

“They have days when teams dress up in Hawaiian clothes or pajamas just because—‘We’re the soccer team!’?” she says.

In comparison, students in South Korea spend a lot more time sitting at their school desks, and it shows. Fifteen-year-olds there rank fourth in the world on a test of critical thinking in math. What do they do for sports? They play soccer on a dirt field during their lunch break. Sometimes they bring badminton rackets from home and fake the existence of a net.

The romance US schools have with sports is almost non-existent in other countries around the world. Yet somehow this huge difference rarely comes up in the debate on how to get our schools’ up to par with the rest of the world. The US ranks 31st on that same critical thinking math test mentioned above. Yes, there are certainly other challenges affecting the academic environment such as poorly trained teachers and poverty. But what about this other huge difference? Is the fascination with sports here in the US sending the wrong message to our children about what school is really for in the first place?

Benefits of Sports During the Educational Day

school-sports-daySome children may groan about having to go to physical education class, and their parents may wonder if there is really a benefit to these activities. Indeed, there is. It is incredibly important for children to get exercise during the day for many reasons. Here, we address a few of these reasons and the benefits found from this exercise routine.

1. Physical activity: On simply a physical level, sports and exercise routines during the school day are incredibly important. Children need to get out of their school chairs and burn calories. Physical activity allows them to stay in shape, to learn about various exercise options that they might consider participating in after school as well, and to renew their focus for the classroom.

2. Psychological well-being: Along with the physical benefits of sport, there are many other benefits for the mind. The school day is quite long and students need to have a break sometimes. This break allows them to refocus their attention, burn off some energy and enjoy some physical exertion.

3. Team work: Assuming that the school teaches students about various sports, kids are learning teamwork and cooperation. Almost every sport teaches these skills, forcing students to pass the ball, to look out for each other and to balance their needs with the group’s need.
4. Following directions: One final benefit of team sports and sports in schools is that students learn how to follow directions. Certainly, they learn this skill in the classroom as well. Learning it on the field is one more way in which students learn to stay focused and to follow directions and these skills are very important.

The Importance of Sports in Elementary School

school-lockers

Sports in school are extremely beneficial for many reasons. In elementary school, many children struggle with the long hours, getting cramped and restless while sitting at folding tables or desks. During recess the children get to stretch and refresh outdoors, but once they return to their stacking chairs and tables, they can quickly become lethargic and distracted.

Adding sports to the school curriculum is an excellent solution. The physical activity will help the children burn pent-up energy in an organized manner, and more than they would during free play in the playground. Sports also teach children discipline, confidence and social skills, helping them create teams and establish strong bonds both inside and outside the gym. The change of scenery also helps children re-focus their attention on school work later in the day thanks to a new flow of energy and hormones that boost concentration and confidence.

The scheduled gym classes and sports are not inconvenient for the children or their parents. In fact, parents are able to enjoy the fact that their child is getting sufficient exercise during their daily routine without having to worry about carpools and equipment for physical activities after school hours.  The children are able to store a pair of sneakers and gym pants in their school lockers for easy access, and stay healthy and energized every day.

School Resources– Inside and Outside

school-chairs

While some schools boast top of the line computer equipment, other schools pride themselves on having a greater focus on sports stuff. They may even have a swimming pool on site. Some schools have top basketball teachers, or even teach kids how to train to get into dance school for example. At the end of the day though, each school has some limits in their budget so it is important to see what they are spending most of their money on and how that fits in with particular child’s needs.

For example, if your focus is on the academia, you may not want your child to be sitting at banquet tables, using outdated computer software programs, or not having proper access to the classroom blackboard (which these days is actually a digital board but it is still the same idea).

The type of resources the school chooses to have will impact your child from K-12. Remember how important outdoor resources are as well. So many people focus on the academia and leave the sport to chance. But at the end of the day, it is important to give children a start into the world of fitness and correct nutrition at an early age and that can being – positively – through playing sports at school.