In 2018, my high school career will come to a close, both academically and athletically. Sports have always been an escape for me; a way to get away from the stress and expectations of teachers and my parents. It allows me to focus completely on something else and be free of inhibitions. Without sports there would be no outlet, nothing to go to for a break.
Sports give this escape to many young adults like myself, but now student athletes are being forced to focus more intensely on academics. Colleges are becoming more and more selective, making schools more intent on raising their academic standards rather than athletics. Schools are changing the focus of the funding they receive to raising their standards and recognition academically rather than focusing on the surrounding aspects of the students’ lives. This restriction of athletic activity for children can cause serious physical detriments along with a decrease in mental health.
Sports are a major factor in the well-being of adolescents. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association less than 40 percent of boys and girls are not receiving just 60 minutes of daily athletic activity. This inactivity can be a leading factor in youth depression, obesity and lowering of self confidence. Kids’ access to athletic activity through school and for leisure is decreasing, especially for young girls.
Athletic activity is becoming more difficult to attain for kids, through no fault of their own. High schools, and even some elementary schools are feeling the pressure to reach certain academic notoriety and awards. Schools are limiting the number of students who can play sports, to make the students focus more strictly on academics. Participation in, and support of, sports for adolescents is increasingly scarce.
Attending Shawnee Mission East – a major outlier compared to the amount of resources that most of the high schools in the nation possess – I have what feels like unlimited accessibility to sports and activities. I started swimming my freshman year for fun after hearing the endless stories of the “glory days” from my father and what a good experience it was for him. After being promoted to varsity about a month in, I realized what my dad was always talking about. While I was swimming 18 hours a week, I developed a different sense of work ethic. Being with the same group of people, always working for a common goal – a state championship – taught me the necessity of persistence.
With the Amateur Athletic Union, or AAU, and club programs becoming a necessity for kids to become dominant athletes, kids are less likely to compete and continue to stay active for enjoyment. These clubs and programs are forcing kids to commit completely, without the option of playing recreationally. Between ages 14 and 15 there’s a 26 percent drop in the number of kids who play at least one sport, even casually, according to the SFIA.
Schools and adults should be promoting youth sports, not cutting the funding and restricting kids to only academics. While sports can be over-glorified and monopolize the school’s resources, they allow kids to express themselves while greatly benefiting their mental and physical health. I have taken advantage of always being able to play sports, while many kids are not as fortunate.
As I have progressed through high school, the classes, teachers, and sometimes friends have changed. Sports have been a constant, reliable force. I now look forward each school year to swimming and as soon as it has passed the next three months just feel empty. Although many high schoolers might not have the same experience as I have had, it is important for them to have the opportunity. School funding, clubs or external pressure from parents shouldn’t limit the activities that a student has outside of the classroom.