In these sports pages, you read all about who won and who lost, who the stars and standouts were and what’s coming up next on the schedule.
Those are all important elements of the high school sports experience, to be sure. After all, coaches’ jobs depend on whether their teams succeed on the field, and players earn playing time based on their ability to help their team win.
But if you take a closer look at things, all those wins and losses seem pretty unimportant.
First of all, 10 years from now, these kids — soon to be adults — won’t be defined by whether they hit a walk-off, game-winning hit or whether they made the final out in a one-run loss. It likely won’t matter much whether they were a lightning-quick sprinter, or merely hoped to finish the grueling 3,200-meter run even if it meant finishing several minutes behind.
High school sports play a much bigger role than some give them credit for. For some kids, the ability to play sports gives them the motivation they need to stay focused on their studies.
If it weren’t for eligibility requirements, some kids might struggle to graduate from high school on time — if they graduate at all. In my nearly 20 years of experience being around high school sports, I can definitely vouch for that being the case.
We had one of our star athletes earn a scholarship to play college football, who likely wouldn’t have even gone to college if it wasn’t for that. He wasn’t the greatest student — much like I wasn’t the greatest athlete. But that college scholarship and what it took to maintain it led him to work incredibly hard to make the most of that opportunity. He’s a successful businessman and family man now.
We had another athlete who had a hard time staying out of trouble until he found a spot on our high school basketball team as a senior. Instead of hanging out with the wrong crowd and skipping class, he found himself forced to stay in school, or he wouldn’t have been able to keep playing. He went from being on the brink of dropping out to graduating with his high school diploma on time.
And I’ve witnessed plenty more success stories like that over the years. Some of these kids could have slipped through the cracks if they hadn’t had sports to motivate them.
Thanks to the opportunities offered to them through high school athletics, they’ve been able to make something more of themselves.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. Being involved in high school sports enabled him to experience most of the state of Utah through the windows of a cramped school bus. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.