There is a controversy about the emphasis on team sports in schools.

Some feel they are perfect just the way they were pre-COVID others feel they take up too much time away from academics or create exclusive social groups.

Still others feel athletics are healthy exercise for all, but individual athletics are just as valued as team sports.

VIEW ONE: Keep School Team Sports the Way They Are

This view of course varies in different geographic areas where team sports are included in after school activities.

Examples might be baseball, football, soccer, basketball, swimming. Usually, they are separated by gender into girls’ teams and boys’ teams. (If there are objections to that general practice, it’s beyond the scope of this article.)

In terms of scheduling this generally means practices and games are after school academic hours often as extensive as every day after classes during the season the sport is played. Games also may take place on Saturdays.

The positives generally cited include:

  1. Healthy objectives of exercise on a regular basis.
  2. Learning to participate in a group activity.
  3. Following rules with others.
  4. Learning from a respected coach.
  5. Raising self-esteem for most of the athletes, especially those with unique talents.
  6. Perhaps going forward on a career ladder by playing the sport in college or becoming an athletics instructor or teacher or coach as an adult.

Those objecting to some of the positives above may primarily cite that especially with football careful attention to injuries (sometimes that are frequent) is not fully recognized. The teenager’s body is still growing and developing and some injuries although they may seem to be taken care of in the present may lead to later health problems that can be quite serious.

Others note that sometimes kids play before their injuries are fully healed because they are prized players and affect the team’s victories. Even if medical doctors caution the kids, their families, and coaches, sometimes the team is put ahead of the individual’s medical needs. This again may result in further injury and later problems as the adolescent body matures into adulthood.

VIEW TWO: Too Much Focus on Sports Risking Academics or Prizing Social Status in an Exclusive Way

Those with this view point out that by the time the athletes get home from practices they are exhausted. This exhaustion prevents them from being able to fully concentrate on their academic homework.

Furthermore, others feel athletics in some schools may be prized over academics, restricting the full experience of academics in education.

On the social front, some purport that in some schools, for some kids, athletics are valued as a requirement to be “popular” which excludes many without that interest or talent from this status level social group.

Of course, this is its own problem not precisely caused by the sport itself, but by social norms that may be prevalent in a particular locale.

The value of an individual is internal. That is, his or her moral character is also developing full steam ahead during adolescence. Status, popularity, being a winner or on a winning team does not make an enduring “good” human being in itself.

This view of the importance of team athletics to make an adolescent noteworthy, like any talent if persevered diligently is respectable and admirable. This however is different than according that individual a status as a “better” or more sought after person who ranks higher in  social circles by a local standard kids may too easily slip into.

VIEW THREE: Individual Athletics Should Be Just as Prized as Team Sports

Many teens enjoy individual sports that they may work at on their own or in groups but the “win” is generally not considered the Team’s Win as much as the individual’s success. Examples might be long-distance running, sprinting, and wrestling.

All adolescents don’t enjoy being part of a team because it is not their interest, talent, or view of how to attain social acclaim.

Indeed, it would be unfortunate in some geographic areas for individual pleasure at a sport or prowess or even talent to be judged with less acclaim than that given to a team sport.

Summary

Any athletic endeavor may begin with unusual talent but that needs to be cultivated by hard work, perseverance, following rules and standards, and group or individual coaching.

Neither athletic nor academic interests, pleasures, or talents have more virtue than others except for those who believe they do and may strive for excellence in their chosen area of interest.

Surely some teens are accomplished in both academics and team or individual sports and will benefit from their achievements by feeling proud of themselves and by getting recognition from others.

The general conclusion is that no one way is THE WAY for all, nor should one’s character be measured in this way.

Social status is subjective and varies from community to community, but also from individual to individual.

If generally status  or more importantly, self-esteem was given significance to and by those who persevered, worked hard, are open to learning in one or many ways, then this controversy would solve itself.

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