03/31/09 — Athletic calling: Maybe there is something more to the academics/sports link

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Athletic calling: Maybe there is something more to the academics/sports link

State Sen. Charlie Albertson proposed a bill in the state legislature this year that has about as much chance of passing as a fish has of learning to walk.

Albertson has proposed that any school that is not making the grade academically in North Carolina be required to suspend its athletic programs.

On the surface, Albertson's idea seems just to be a political hot potato that no one is ever going to consider, let alone champion. Can you imagine the debate in the N.C. Senate over that one -- the legislature would be in session until late December.

On the other hand, as prickly as the idea is and as typical as it is of Albertson's sometimes-provocative style, it brings up an interesting question.

What more important role could athletics play in schools?

There are many, many positive reasons for children to have the chance to learn teamwork and other skills relating to getting along with others. Those attributes, as well as the discipline and responsibility that go along with athletics, help many children find their way into adulthood.

And then, of course, there is the obvious -- children spend too much time sitting in front of video games and computers these days. Physical fitness is very important -- and athletics play a key role in helping encourage children to pursue a healthy life.

So, with all that said, why would Albertson's proposal be interesting? Simple.

Could success in academics become more of an incentive for students with regard to athletic programs?

There are already some rules in place. Most athletes have to maintain certain requirements to stay on their school's team.

But what if there were a consequence for the school as well? Or, better yet, a reward?

What if a school -- or a student -- was able to earn extras if more of his classmates passed classes or earned better scores on standardized tests?

What if more peer counseling or afterschool tutoring got you more uniforms?

What if even a slight increase in test scores was recognized with a traveling trophy among the high schools in a county?

It is a bit different, but these are times when schools, teachers and parents are looking for any way they can to reach students.

Perhaps we are overlooking a kernel of wisdom in what seemed on the surface as an unworkable bill.

A little competition -- for academic success -- might be the jumpstart we need to increase community involvement and to continue our journey -- creatively -- to improve our schools.

Published in Editorials on March 31, 2009 10:21 AM