Jocks in high school

Posted on November 30, 2008
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            There is controversy this year about new rules for New Brunswick students participating in extra curricular sports. Provincial policies were re-written after last years winter highway accident that killed seven students and a teacher.

            The policy that is causing the uproar is that students will no longer be excused from classes to go on athletic road trips. The policy has a crippling effect on many league games and weekend tournaments. There isn’t time, outside school hours, for teams to get to and from game sites. The policy puts extra stress on the ability and willingness of coaches to volunteer their time.

            What seems to sting most is the fact that other school activities are not subject to the exact same rules. Drama clubs, for example, can take class time off to go to the provincial festival.

            As usual, lines are created between academics and jocks. Some proposed solutions have little to do with the original concern.

            Having been a parental unit in households made up of both academics and jocks, I’ve seen various aspects of the mental, physical, relationship in education. I also had the privilege and purgatory of going to a high school that had 200 students in five grades. Those were the days of elimination and retention rates of 10% and less. With only 100 boys in the whole school, we had to take turns being the jocks, brains, and gawdhelpus, the musicians!

Glory booze and sex

            From the academic point of view, the jocks get all the glory and preferential use of the student funds for transportation. Eyes are turned while they get to drink alcohol on school property.

            The “St. Petersburg Times” last week published a letter from a retired principal. He said that high school sports often teaches young men to objectivize females and to believe star athletes are exempt from many of society’s rule. He spoke of teams of boys who make deflowering as many young women as possible into a competitive team sport as a common occurrence.

            Now that I have all the parents and coaches of jocks frothing at the mouth, let’s turn to the academics.

            Academics are all that matters to the majority of namby-pamby teachers and administrators who couldn’t make one free throw in 50 and couldn’t tell you who won the Stanley Cup last year or why Newfoundlanders care and most Miramichi fans are disappointed.

            They think sports is just mindless fun and a privilege that should be taken from anyone who doesn’t want to, or cannot, dig deeply into, and memorize, academia’s interpretations of some effeminate poet or political economic theory.

            Musicians just play and play and play. Neither jocks nor academics worry about canceling their privileges or courses. Music is nice but it doesn’t really matter.

            There, have I got everyone in a fury? I should have. It’s all garbage.

            As Nice Eddie Mcdermaid once told me, the thing people love about sports is that it is a microcosm of life with a clear result in three hours. Normal life isn’t like that.

            Inherent in that statement is that everything that holds true in life also holds true in sports. Over a game, a season, a generation, a lifetime, things like discipline, practice, character, courage, attention to detail, fundamentals, teamwork, leadership, and everything else you can think of, good and bad, come into play.

            Athletes are often very good students. Miramichi athletes have won full scholarships to Princeton and Yale.

            Yes, some athletes are jerks. As I write this, New York police are waiting for New York Giant football player, Plaxico Burris, to turn himself in and explain how he came to shoot himself in a bar with a gun he has no permit to carry. He faces three and a half years in jail if he doesn’t have a fine story.  

            Academics are often very physically active. Ron Wallace, formerly local educator, used to traipse off to mountainous, third world, countries in summer leaving his watch behind so he wouldn’t be worth killing.

            Some academics are jerks too. I wish I could remember who said that the political battles in academia are so vicious because the stakes are so small. Professors and poets can be small and mean.

            Business and political superstars are not immune to the abuse of power and spoiled behaviour. Henry Kissinger said that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Some of the financial masters of the universe seem to have been a tad careless with responsibility and the niceties of the law.

            Yep, academics and jocks are ultimately pretty much alike and often the same people. They can each find success and happiness in their passions.

            Sometimes success peaks at different stages. I get a kick out of a yell Ivy league university student football fans chant when they are being clobbered by a jockier school.

            “That’s all right! That’s okay! You’ll be working for us someday!”

            So, let’s put aside the jock versus academic quarrel and look at the issue. We want our kids to be safe when they play games or go to drama,speaking, musical or citizenship exchanges.

            Let’s look at the real issues. When I was in high school in southwestern Ontario, the schools were tiny because they were not yet centralized. Our team travels ran 11 to 20 miles. New Brunswick has fewer, larger communities spaced further apart.

            My son, Nathan Cline, pointed out that his basketball team was once at a game in Grand Falls when a snow storm came up. His coach told the home team coach it was not safe to travel. The Grand Falls coach took some of the kids to his own home and billeted the rest in the homes of his players.

            Why can’t we simply ask how many parents of students would be willing to billet other players overnight when safety is a travel issue?

            With regard to time away from classes to participate in tournaments, why don’t we consider what makes kids want to be an enthusiastic member of a school’s student body?

            One of my sons didn’t like anything about school except athletics. When he got to a school where he was valued for that, his blood turned the school colours. They made him want to please.

            We know it is important to keep kids in school. What is more important is to have them want to be there and want to succeed.

            For that to happen, we have to find their talents and passions and ride them as hard as we can.

            I remember reading once of a type of school administrator who felt the education system would work just fine in his school it were not for all those kids!

            Sometimes one wonders if educational systems designed by bureaucrats might be good if it were not for kids and teachers and volunteers.



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