All of this led me to think about school sports programs in general, and sports programs in my town specifically. We take such pride in their accomplishments, award them praise and devotion and caravan across the state when gas prices are on average $4.27 a gallon to support them. And yet, due to the economic downturn the nation is experiencing at the moment, the first thing my town wants to cut from its budget is school sports. Well, the second thing. The first thing is always trash pick up, because that has continually been the one threat that will get a budget passed in my sleepy little town. Especially when it is pointed out that eliminating sanitation from the town budget doesn't eliminate the cost; it simply shifts the cost directly to the tax payer. But now, sports are on the chopping block.
I was never one to participate in sports. Getting sweaty and grimy wasn't exactly something that made me ecstatic. And I very much preferred to spend my afternoons and weekends away from school and school-related events. But that doesn't mean that I don't recognize the use of school sports, or that I don't deplore the idea that we should cut back on the school sports program.
Forget that "student athletes report healthier eating habits, increased parental support, and decreased anxiety and depression". Forget that "participating in sports is associated with higher levels of self-esteem and motivation, overall psychological well-being, and better body image for girls". Forget that school sports can help students, especially in younger grades, develop skills like cooperation and dedication. Forget that in today's scholastic competition, grades alone are not enough for students to be accepted into the top colleges, and sports are a way for many to diversify their application and exemplify some of the qualities they possess that universities are looking for. Forget scholarship options for the select elite of student athletes, people who may very well not have been able to attend college otherwise.
Even if we disregard all of those factors, school sports are still incredibly important. Why? Because we are a nation of ever-increasing obesity, and child obesity is on the rise. And 30-45 minutes every other day (or every day for one semester out of the year) in gym class isn't going to cut it. Sports programs are linked to students "maintaining a healthy exercise program". And in America today, we need to encourage and support anything that does. We need to encourage student interest in running and jumping and generally being active. We need to put more money into a myriad of sports; we need to not only support those sports that garner money for the school system but also intramural sports. We need this outlet to be as readily available as it can be for our students. Because in many cases, the habits children form in elementary school and middle school and high school are the habits they take with them throughout life. Teach a student to love books, and they will become life-long readers. Introduce a child to a sport that engages them and intrigues them, and we will have done one more thing in the war against obesity. Active children, children who are encouraged in their activeness, are more likely to turn into active adults. Let's give these children that chance.