Staff Ed: Purpose of Extracurriculars

We are not coaches. We are not directors. We are not in charge. But from our perspective as students, we can tell you that too often it seems that activities and sports prioritize recognition and success over the growth and dedication of the participating students, and thus neglect the fundamental purpose of activities.

Activities should help students develop interpersonal skills, foster healthy competition, teach the value of dedication and how to overcome failure, provide a community for students, and give students pride in themselves and their school. On too many occasions, these goals are compromised to sell tickets, win championships, and increase budgets.

We understand that winning is important, as well as recruiting new members and boosting enrollment. We understand that not everyone can participate in a competitive club or sport and that making money for our school is necessary. We also understand that making cuts and assigning roles is hard and involves hours of thought and contemplation. But final decisions regarding a team or club should be made with the benefit of the students in mind as the leading intention.

Coaches and leaders should put the needs of students currently involved in the activity over possible new members––students who quit their jobs, spent their own money on training and equipment, contributed to previous years’ successes, and continuously proved their dedication to the activity. Of course, incoming members with raw talent and unlimited potential deserve equal recognition, but years of experience and commitment should count for something and make up for any imperfections in a student’s performance.

Once decisions have been made regarding the upcoming season of an activity, it is important for administrators to remember the aforementioned reasons for high school activities. Creating professional athletes, lawyers, dancers, or actors is not one of these purposes. If a student athlete decides on her own that she would like to be a professional soccer player in the future, then it is her job to push herself and the coach’s job to provide the tools for her and support her. But leaders need to realize that not everyone plans to perform on Broadway. Some students simply want to enjoy their time with their friends doing the things they love.

Many sports and activities at BSM have done an amazing job upholding the principles of high school activities by making room and giving a role to all students willing to sacrifice their time, while still maintaining a competitive atmosphere and achieving success. These activities are successful because they encourage all students to participate and grow. When the leaders of an activity put the triumph of the final product over the well-being of the students, activities become something they shouldn’t be.