In a recent article in Education Week, Richard Whitmire discussed the possibility that organized sports can possibly be detrimental to the academic development of African American boys. Whitmore, author of Why Boys Fail, explains “The thinking went: Who cares if they don’t keep up with their schoolwork, if they are doing well on the field?”
Whitmire continues, “A community that pushes sports over academics is doing a terrible disservice to its children, who will find themselves in deep trouble when their athletic aspirations fail to materialize and they don’t have the academic background to do much else.”
I was someone who was very involved in sports growing up, though as a girl, no one ever put too much too much emphasis on the importance of sport for me – it was something that I got to choose and enjoy for purely intrinsic reasons. Nonetheless, I would go further than Whitmire. No community should be prioritizing sports over academics. Both should focus on an even higher value: learning.
More and more research is showing us that play is essential to kids' learning, and we see it every day with younger students in schools. Kids who have a safe and healthy recess come back to class focused and ready to learn. After-school sports can help too, but the truth is that only a fraction of kids actually have the opportunity to participate in sports and even fewer take advantage of that opportunity.
The nice thing about recess is that it is woven into the fabric of the school day. Recess and physical education classes connect easily to what happens in the classroom.
Unfortunately, the cuts to recess minutes, the elimination of recess or the sad practice of withholding recess as a form of punishment means more and more kids are stuck behind their desks all day.
Kids need balance to succeed. High schools that focus too much on athletics over academics are missing that balance. So too are elementary schools that cut recess (and things like art, music or physical education) that foster learning in order to cram more classroom minutes into the school day.
What do you think? How do recess and other types of physical activity rate in comparison to organized sports at your school?