Has the Time Come to Eliminate or Reduce Sports and Activities in Public Schools?
The Monetary Cost of Sports in Public Schools
Sports in school. This began as physical education, became a challenge between schools for bragging rights, and has morphed into a monster which takes money from budgets which cannot afford it and time from students who must decide which path to take: Stay home and study, forget about classes and play football, or cheat and have someone do my work for me?
These are decisions we should not be forcing upon our children at a point where they should be getting ready to enter real life, get a job, and learn how to care for themselves as they move forward in their lives. To say nothing of the peer pressure, high expectations of performing on a field of battle, and even carrying an entire town's dreams on their shoulders.
I propose that the time has come to eliminate some, if not all, sports from public school curriculum's and put the money and time saved back into these children's future by spending more on teachers, on better and more efficient classes, and classes which will actually make a difference in their lives as they grow.
How Much Does Sports Cost A Public School?
So, how much money does a sport cost a school? Well, to answer that one must incorporate all the various aspects of a sport. Take football, which is more than likely the most costly for a school. We will take a moderate sized school, say one with 5,000 students or so. A school will have a Freshman team, a Junior Varsity team, and a Varsity team. Each team will have between 50 and 125 players, some of which will play on more than one team. A very good freshman might also play on the JV squad, and multiple JV squad members will be on the Varsity squad. So, to keep this as simple as possible we will focus on the big dog on campus, the Varsity Squad.
A home game will dress out every single player from freshman to senior, but a traveling squad will take only about 80 to 90 players for a school of this size. So, to begin with we must have roughly 100 uniforms, helmets, pads, shoes, socks, athletic supporters (jock straps not fans), mouth guards and such. Each person's uniform runs several hundred dollars, shoes might run over a hundred, pads another hundred so each player is running around the field of battle wearing close to $500 worth of clothing. Take that times the 100 players, and you are up to $50,000 just to field a team.
Now you add coaches: offensive line, defensive line, receiver, running back, linebacker, tight end, corner back, safety, special teams, quarterback, strength, and head coach out to do it. Then you must have an Athletic Director, at least one secretary, Each normal coach will make perhaps $40,000 a year,the head coach $75,000 and the AD over $100,000. The secretary is a toss in, making perhaps $20,000 if they are lucky. So, how much are we up to so far?
Almost $700,000. For one year of football. And we are just beginning.
Add in away games and travel. Minimum of five away games, four buses per trip at $300 each, a truck and trailer to carry equipment, cheerleaders and for a year of football, you are approaching a cool million dollars out of a public school budget.
But Wait, it brings in money too!
Yes, money is brought in by concessions each home game, maybe $10,000 per home game if the school is lucky,including gate money. So $50,000 for receipts against a million dollars of outgoing money for a year's worth of football. Not exactly a fair and equitable trade, is it?
Civic pride! School pride! Boo-rah! Horse hockey! Most students go to walk around and socialize most of the time if you are honest. Yes, parents go and watch their children but honestly, is this really something a school needs to worry about? No, not really. Add in the fact of bullying which continues between the jocks and the nerds, a fact of life that continues despite the "efforts" to minimize it with cute ads and efforts to the contrary, and the absolute indefensible act that occurs when a player gets into trouble for something, be it bullying, on the bus, in class whatever and being told that the only reason that student comes to school is to play (enter sport here). Otherwise, they would be walking the streets. Yes, I have personally been involved in conversations such as this, where a student disrupts a setting, they are "written up" and a meeting ensues with a principal and then been told that exact statement. Basically, I was told to let it go, give the kid a chance. By the way, that particular kid had been in in-school suspension for a full third of the year for actions, had multiple (over twenty) write ups EACH YEAR during his high school career and still allowed to attend school because he could play a sport. Anything wrong with this picture to you?
Then there are other sports, like basketball, baseball, track, cross country, volleyball, softball, soccer, and so on and so forth. Each one adds to the cost until a school of 5,000 students might have 10% of the actual student population using up a significant portion of the budget playing a game, at a cost of perhaps 2.5 million dollars or more, while teachers go underpaid and unappreciated, even demeaned if what they teach isn't popular.
Add in the cost of the facilities, such as $7 million for a football stadium (modest at that cost), field house another million, more money taken out of a budget that is strained to the max.
How many more teachers could that pay for? How much smaller could classrooms be, allowing our children to get better instruction, allowing them to be better prepared for their future? Rather than have a football field that is used for a few weeks in the fall, would it be better to have more buildings that supported the other 90% of the student population that don't play football?
But, but but Lee! What about...
How will our children learn team concepts if they aren't banging their heads together playing football, banging their bodies together playing soccer, basketball, whatever? Well, there are already traveling teams for our children for other sports,such as volleyball, softball, baseball, soccer etc. These are supported by the specific persons who desire to have their children play on them, so why not allow them to continue to do this? Why should a school take money out of its budget to pay for something which already exists in some form elsewhere?
Well, I'm waiting.
They shouldn't is the correct answer. Spend the money where it does the most good, not the most harm.
Then we get into the amount of time a sport costs a student, time in study, time away from school, time they could be using far more constructively to better themselves, to NOT be told how great they are for hitting another person, for running fast, for jumping high. Time which would allow them to understand they are just like anyone else, that they should have to work just the same, study just the same, not get a free ride because of something they can do with their bodies rather than their minds.
Take golf, for instance. A reasonably quiet, well mannered sport; a small team which doesn't necessarily travel very far on a given day. But a single match usually begins before school starts, and lasts the entire day, until school is over. During a golf season that student will miss more days of school that most school districts allow during a given quarter for the average student! One district allowed nine days missed per semester before that student was in trouble for truancy; a golf team missed ten full days IN A QUARTER! And no one was spoken to, no student in trouble with the truancy police, nothing. It was acceptable.
And yet, they had to make up work, catch up with the rest of the class on their own time later in the evening, putting a stress on their private lives and time. Is that right?
The Bottom Line
I'm a bottom line kinda guy, one who looks at things for what they add to a particular situation, a scenario. To me, public school sports take far more time than they should, take far more money than is warranted, cost far more than they add back to a school setting. We do not need them. And during this coronavirus time, where everything is so concerning referencing who should be near to one another, how to sit, speak, travel I believe the time is right to take a hard look at school sports in general. Let those who desire to play a particular sport support that sport as they see fit, but do not expect a school district to spend a large portion of their meager budget on it for a small amount of students. Do the other students, those not playing a sport, get any additional funding for something they desire to do? Archery? Nope, totally financed by the parents. FFA? Somewhat, but minimal. Usually the money comes out of things they sell and the person heading it up in school. Fact is, unless it is a school sponsored sport most of the money comes from parents of the children who participate in that activity; why should sports be any different?
The time has come to pull back, save money, be smart. Allow our children to learn what they need to in school and allow the parents who desire their children to play a sport actually foot the bill for that sport themselves. That is only fair. In today's world, school districts are faced with an ever shrinking budget, a series of rising costs, teachers not remaining where they are due to their limited pay and the expectations that they fund their classrooms out of their own pockets and expecting sports to continue to dominate their time and monetary budgets are unrealistic. The time has come to drastically reduce or even eliminate sports from a public school setting.