On Monday, October 10th, an article in The Daily Campus asked the question: “Is college sports worth the cost?” Unfortunately, besides briefly mentioning the multitude of positive aspects – only four sentences – the article was mostly negative and only focused on the financial cost to the school district. Contributor Youssef Macary uses his hometown as an example, so I’ll do the same with mine. Unlike Wolcott, my hometown of South Windsor is a relatively large city in Hartford County about 25 minutes from the Storrs campus. My senior year consisted of about 325 students out of a total school population of about 1,300 students.
According to the South Windsor Board of Education budget, they spend $886,069 on athletics, including high school and middle school staff and program. Compare that to the $3.3 million South Windsor is spending on the K-12 science program. Almost four times more. Not as somber as Macary makes it out to be.
But I have a follow-up question: Does the amount of the sports program costs play a role? Let’s say it was as bad as Macary says it was. Why shouldn’t we spend money on sports? Macary says football is just “where high school kids chase a ball and attack each other.” Being part of my high school athletic teams taught me fundamental concepts about life that are in some ways more fundamental than knowing, for example, that the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. Sport can teach respect, discipline and sportsmanship, what it takes to succeed and how to respond to failure. Students also have the opportunity to create a different type of family—a brotherhood or sisterhood that they may not have at home. Coaches often take on a parental role, helping students navigate life’s challenges on and off the pitch.
Athletics is about learning to be a well-rounded student. They allow participants to grow emotionally, physically and spiritually. Macary’s final statement is that Wolcott spent all that money just to go 3-7, which just goes to show how badly he missed the point. It’s not about winning or losing. For most, it’s not even about gaming. It’s about being part of a team, having your teammates’ backs, and learning what it all means.