“Sports teach the same lessons to the superstar as the substitute.”
ProJo high school sports reporter John Gillooly writes about pay-to-play and gives an example of a young girl who thought she’d give volleyball a try, but paying a sports participation fee was an issue:
She had heard that anyone who felt their family couldn’t afford the participation fee could go to the high school athletic director and make out a hardship waiver form. But that would be embarrassing for both her and her family.
The easier thing to do was just not play.
After all, it’s no big thing that she’s not playing. She’s not some superstar athlete. Her presence on the team wouldn’t be the deciding factor in a drive for a state championship. Other than a few of her friends, nobody will even notice she’s not playing.
So she became one of the Lost Children of Pay-to-Play.
I don’t know “her” name.
I wouldn’t recognize “her” if I saw her.
But after decades of chronicling the activities of high school student/athletes and talking to people in areas where pay-to-play has been a reality for a while, I know “she” and other teenagers like her exist at every high school that has pay-to-play sports.
They are the not the star athletes, not the ones whose names appear on the recruiting lists of college coaches. They are, however, teenagers for whom high school sports participation is important for a variety of reasons that don’t include All-State awards or college scholarship offers.
We have become a society that more and more measures its concept of success by an individual’s celebrity-rating, yet high school sports teach the same lessons to the superstar as the substitute.
There are lessons of commitment, teamwork and healthy lifestyles and they come at a time when young people are beginning to make their own decisions about their life’s direction.
I would argue that being a substitute or an end-of-the-bencher can provide more valuable lessons than when your a superstar (or even just a solid varsity star). You learn about hard work, commitment and being on a team, even if personal glory doesn’t redound upon you. That mindset, that sense of self-sacrifice, is one of many skills learned on the field or court that can easily be transferred into everyday life. As I’ve said, providing our students the opportunity to compete on teams–or play music, or act or paint–free of charge (so to speak) is an important component of a well rounded education. It shouldn’t cost extra.