“We have the boys, we just don’t have them out,” the Elwood superintendent said.
The Times staff recalls a time when the participation rate for Dorchester football exceeded 90 percent -- in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
But something happened about a decade ago in our culture when it comes to males taking part in athletics and society. Suddenly, there was less encouragement from home.
Maybe it was the increase in the number of single-parent households.
Maybe men in families were setting poor examples.
Perhaps it was media sensation regarding football injuries.
Perhaps parents decided they would try to protect their kids by not forcing them to play sports to ensure nothing bad happens.
Maybe the kids wanted to insulate themselves from failure on the athletic field.
Or maybe it was easier just to sit at home to, at best, play video games and "veg out" or, at worst, get involved with drugs and alcohol. (Surveys show fewer and fewer students hold part-time jobs, so we know that can't be to blame.)
To those parents and kids who subscribe to any of the above, we have a simple message: Bad things are going to happen -- in athletics, in academics, in work, in relationships and in life. It's guaranteed. It's how you persevere and overcome challenges that matters.
The experts agree: Participating in high school athletics provides essential life skills such as self-discipline and teamwork. It doesn't matter whether you're an all-stater or a third string backup.
We aren't naive enough to think there aren't negative experiences in school sports -- but it's those negatives that build a more competent, more well-rounded adult later in life.
Some students just don't want to play sports. We get that. But if your child isn't going out for athletics, think about what he/she is missing out on, as documented by a teaching expert:
- Athletics provide opportunities through relationships. In a team sport, players are typically close to one another. These relationships can span the length of a lifetime. Staying connected may provide you with a job or investment opportunity. It may simply provide you with life long friends who have your back in any situation.
- Athletics is the building block of promoting school pride. Pre-game events such as homecoming, pep rallies, and parades are intended to show off that school pride. We love to support our team no matter whether we win or whether we lose. School pride creates a bond between an individual and the school. This bond spans the course of a lifetime.
- Having a successful athlete and/or team will likely give you positive media coverage within and around your community. While a teacher with a successful academic program will garner little to no attention, a team with a 10-0 record will be followed closely by the media and the community. This type of notoriety is celebrated. It makes the school attractive to families looking to move into the community that value an outstanding athletics program. It also puts fan in the stands which translates to more money being poured into the athletics department.
- Athletics can serve as a powerful academic motivator for athletes who would otherwise under perform in the classroom. There are many students who see school as secondary to athletics. As adults, we realize that academics are of far greater importance than athletics. However, as teenagers the academic side was probably not the center of our focus as it should have been. Many students stay in school and keep their grades up only because of their desire to compete in athletics.
- Athletics also serves as motivation for staying out of trouble. Athletes know that if they get in trouble, there is a reasonable chance that they will be suspended for games or parts of a game.
- Athletics provides athletes with several benefits including the acquisition of valuable life skills that will benefit them throughout their life. These skills are more beneficial than the games themselves, and their impact can be powerful and transcending. Some of these skills include: hard work, self-discipline, team work, and time management.