The Case for Interscholastic Athletics by Dr. Rick Holliday

Pretend that I am a salesman coming to your school system. I present to you a program that will reduce your dropout rate, improve student attendance and increase academic performance. Oh, here is the catch. It will only cost you less than 1% of your total budget! You will probably be waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. At the very least, you will be quite skeptical. But wait, you already have such a program! Interscholastic Athletics have been keeping students on track (pun intended) in school for years.

You see, students need to form meaningful and positive relationships with their peers and with responsible adults. This relationship pinch is critical to our development as human beings. Why do you think that gang activity is on the rise all over the county? If we cannot provide these positive relationships in our schools and community, young people will gravitate to those who will provide them. Many times, their alternatives take the child to places that they do not want to go and ingrain them there much longer than they want to stay. This is such a sad scenario.

But there is hope! The New Hanover County Schools offers twenty-two (22) sports at the high school level and ten (10) at the middle school level. Currently, we serve 2,065 students at the high school level at a cost of $500 per student. At the middle school level, we serve 1658 students at a cost of $150 per student. As such, athletics is the longest and most cost effective drop-out program that we have.

In addition, many of the sports we offer can be enjoyed for a lifetime. Track and cross country teach stamina and discipline, while giving students activities they can enjoy for a lifetime. Not a weekend goes by that a 5K, 10K; half-marathon or marathon isn’t being run in our area. Softball and basketball leagues are available for small children through senior adult years. Our area has tennis courts and golf courses a plenty. All these sports are offered in our schools.

If you are looking for a comparative edge, our school system has had its share of state championships in individual and team sports. Individual championships in tennis, golf, swimming and wrestling occur on a regular basis. In recent years, Hoggard High School has won a state championship in football, New Hanover High School has won in basketball and in 2010, Laney High School won the state 4A baseball championship.

Interscholastic Athletics also provides an opportunity for some of our students to defray the cost of their college educations. Over $1 million in athletic scholarships are offered to our students each year.

Speaking of scholarships, all of our athletes must maintain a “C” average or better and be on track for graduation. They must also be in attendance at a higher percentage than is required of our other students.

So, the case for athletics has been made. You decide. Are our children worth the investment?

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6 Responses to The Case for Interscholastic Athletics by Dr. Rick Holliday

  1. Nancy Brigham says:

    Thank you for your continued support of athletics in New Hanover County. As the parent of a high school student involved in three sports and a middle school students also involved in sports, I see first hand the benefits of these programs. These athletic programs are playing an important role in the development of productive and successful students and young adults.

  2. Lynn Fulton says:

    Thank you Dr. Holliday for your comments. I have seen the benefits you speak of first hand as both an educator and a parent. My oldest son was never very accomplished at sports; however, in his senior year he was invited to run cross country. This opportunity made a significant difference in his academics, lifestyle choices and friendships. The opportunity provided him the confidence to participate in rowing at the college he currently attends. Interscholastic Athletic opportunities have been the change agent and saving grace for many of our students.

  3. Rachael Moser says:

    Thank you for your comments. The same is true for arts and other enrichment programs the county provides for students. I am happy to teach at a school, in a county, that supports afterschool programs for our students. Thank you for the opportunity, and support.

  4. David Bostian says:

    I could not agree more for the beneficial role athletics play in the lives of our students. We need to utilize any tool we have at our disposal to keep our students in school. There are numerous individuals who have attended school just to be able to participate in a sport. Is that the best reason to attend school? No. But attend these individuals did and many have graduated and moved on to lead very productive lives in our community. The lessons learned on the practice field, court, mat, and pool are too numerous for me to discuss in this response. Learning to work as a team, putting the greater need above your own, learning to win with humility and lose with grace, accepting responsibility, being accountable, good sportsmanship, learning to face adversity and to fight the good fight, etc. are characteristics we all must develop to make it in a, sometimes, very tough world. What a mistake it would be to remove such a cost effective investment.

  5. Tiffany McEachern says:

    I’m going to have to disagree. While I do think sports and the arts are very important, I do not think they are as important during tough economic times. I just don’t see how we can justify having classrooms with 40 kids in them and not enough support staff to meet the needs of ALL students to save a sports or arts program. There’s a lot of emphasis on raising these standardized test scores and that will be hard to achieve if there are more teacher and teacher assistant cuts made. There are plenty of sports and arts programs outside of the school system that kids can participate in. There are baseball, football, basketball, soccer, etc. leagues out there in the community. The school systems do not have to pay for sports programs. I don’t think many people understand the costs of running these programs. The coaches have to be paid, uniforms bought, gas for the buses that are used to transport the players, and cost of equipment are just a few of the costs associated with extracurricular programs. I wish there didn’t have to be cuts in any program, but that is not the reality we are facing. The cuts should be made where they will not directly affect the education of students.

  6. Tre Benson says:

    I am a sports fanatic. I buy into the whole “team” ideology and support it wholeheartedly, that is until comes at a sacrifice at the expense of those suffering disabilities such as autism.

    At home I enjoy media access, (news, weather, internet, etc.) and find a way to plug the expense into my household budget. However if it comes between escentials such as water, electricity or my mortgage my internet connection will be sacrificed to afford those needs. We may be facing the same sort of choices when it comes to choosing between sports and federally mandated programs for those with disabilities.

    Now even though I am this self-professed sports enthusiast I do question the hyperbolic suggestions that athletics make a better candidate for continued education. It has been my experience in life that those at the top of nearly every statistic, salary, employment, scholarship, quality of life, have been those who did there homework, studied, involved themselves in after school jobs and projects that were related to community service and outreach. A million dollars in athletic scholarships is commendable however what sort of other scholarships are available and how does the million stack up to that amount?

    Let’s be honest about this, if times are that bad it may be time to stop striping the field and mowing the grass at Legion Stadium. After all, if the county really cared about athletics the girls at Laney would have their own locker rooms and wouldn’t have to dress out in a utility closet.