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The separation of school and sport

August 9, 2012 - Jeff Arenz
Joshua Aakre gave me a lot of good information when I interviewed him for a solid half hour about the time he’s spent playing professional football in Germany this summer. I put a lot of it into the article I wrote for today’s paper, which you can read here if you haven’t already. I also had to keep out a few things because there’s only so much space in the sports section and the story went over 1,800 words.

One of the more interesting things I left out was that he said German high schoolers play sports on club teams instead of on teams affiliated with their schools. They still have physical education and that sort of thing, but you’re not going to see German high schools facing each other on the soccer pitch.

Sports and schools go hand in hand in my mind because that’s all I cover as a sports reporter and it’s what I lived as a student-athlete in high school. But when Joshua told me the little tidbit about high schools and sports being separate in Germany it got me wondering, what’s really better?

Here are a few things that ran through my head:

- When I hear the terms “school spirit” or “school pride”, I tend to automatically associate those things with sports. Joshua said he didn’t get a particularly strong sense of school spirit when he visited high schools in Germany, in part because they don’t have soccer, volleyball or other sports teams to rally behind.

- Schools are places to not only learn facts and skills, but to grow as individuals. Involvement in sports can provide an opportunity to learn teamwork, commitment and other key values. Of course, kids in countries like Germany that don’t have school sports can probably still learn those values playing club sports.

- There is that troubling fact that United States high schoolers have been lagging behind their global peers in math and science in recent years. If schools concentrate all their energy on education instead of also worrying about how to fund and staff sports teams, I’m guessing that gap would close some.

- We’ve all heard stories or have firsthand experience seeing athletes receive preferential treatment from teachers in the classroom. With most teachers this isn’t an issue, but if sports and schools were separate, maybe we could avoid this problem altogether.

- U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is awesome at basketball. I watched him play in the 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Game and he was a boss. I’d put him up against any other nation’s education secretary.

There are a lot of student-athletes in the country who are fantastic at balancing sports and academics, as well as other activities like band, speech, etc. This area has produced a lot of those kids. But there are also those who struggle to find that balance and their education suffers, which is a detriment to their future. That could still happen with kids playing club sports as well, but maybe to a lesser extent.

I don’t know what’s best. You could make arguments both ways. I haven’t even considered things any other way than what I’m used to because that’s all I’ve ever known.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section.


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