There are things bigger than sports.
Hard for some of us to believe perhaps, but it’s the truth.
Sports in high school are called extracurricular activities for a reason. They are activities students have the option to do outside of the classroom. They are not required. They are not the reasons our high schools exist. They are voluntary. Students aren’t entitled to participate in these activities.
There was a local incident this past fall where a student-athlete got into legal trouble but was still allowed to participate in an extracurricular activity. The situation was called out in public and it caused quite a heated debate in our community. I don’t know all the details, I don’t need to know all the details. What I know is there are a defined set of rules and consequences the school district put in place back around 2007-2008 to deal with these types of issues. However, in this case, it doesn’t appear to the outside observer these rules and consequences were enforced.
One crucial piece was left out of the discussion and ensuing arguments, though. Extracurricular activities are privileges, not rights. Students who operate within the rules and expectations earn the privilege to participate. Students who fail to operate within the rules and expectations do not. They are not entitled to participate independently of their behavior.
Being able to play a high school sport is earned.
This type of behavior problem is something that has been around as long as there have been high school sports. I dealt with it as a player. I dealt with it as a coach. Teenagers don’t always make good decisions. When they fail to make good decisions, especially ones contrary to the rules, they should have to suffer the consequences.
We, as parents, coaches, and administrators, don’t do our athletes any good to look the other way. We don’t help them to become responsible and productive citizens/team members by ignoring or selectively enforcing the rules. It’s not fair to the student-athlete involved or to their teammates. Part of our job as the adults in these situations is to help our young people make better decisions and show them the value of earning the privilege to participate.
Personally, my philosophy in dealing with kids who get into trouble is to guide them through their punishment and make them earn their way back into the trust of their teammates and coaches. We used to have a hell-ish series of physical challenges the player would have to complete to go along with their game/event suspension. Once they served their punishment, all was good. They earned their way back. Their teammates saw firsthand the road to redemption the player traveled and, in the end, we were a stronger team because of it.
We’ve seemed to have lost sight that extracurricular activities are privileges.
We’ve seemed to have lost perspective of the true endgame of high school.
There truly are things bigger than sports.
And that’s the damn truth.
Clay Center @ Abilene 2009. Photo credit: Logan Hays