Carrie Snyder-Renfro currently teaches Family & Consumer Science and Career & Technology Education to 7-12th grade students at a low SES inner city school. Her mission is to engage students so that they will be enlightened and empowered to be effective members of their community.
For another angle on athletics in education today, have a look at 3 Major Benefits of School-Based Sports
Athletic programs across the country are facing challenges like never before. Cutbacks are causing a loss of programs and a need for community support along with fundraising. Students are more likely to remain on the couch thanks to technology and health issues related to inactivity. They’re facing big health concerns at younger and younger ages with diabetes, high cholesterol, and other medical concerns. Mental and emotional problems are rearing their ugly faces with suicides up in the early teen years.
Physical Education programs can be a “dumping ground” for schools when regular classroom sizes exceed capacity due to teacher shortages and funding cuts. Some physical education classes may have over 100 students making it a challenge to do effective instruction with limited resources and classroom management obstacles. These classes might just be a holding tank until the bell rings.
Physical education classes are the training ground for future athletes and they are struggling. Here are the insightful thoughts with possible solutions from coaches at an inner city school.
Lack of participation
There are already plenty of obstacles for students to participate in sports. Some of these students have parents who are working or going to school at night and on the weekends. These athletes may have to watch after their siblings while their parents are gone. For others, they might not have parents and could be in state custody. Or their parents might not have a car or gas money to support their child in an after school activity. Maybe the students think no one cares about them or their sport, so why should they? A team of athletes can become a family, which is important for students who do not have one or do not have support or push from parents to be successful in school
- Some ideas to increase participation might include providing buses to take students home after practice.
- If more teachers and administrators attend athletic events and support the students, the students will feel like someone cares and maybe the support and enthusiasm will catch on with the parents and community and student body.
Lack of qualified coaches
Principals might not be aware that hiring teachers who are qualified to coach sports can help the school in many ways! Student behavior improves and referrals decrease when students participate in athletics. Students are more motivated when they participate in athletics, and data shows students who participate in athletics are more motivated in academics. Students who usually participate in athletics don’t care about their academics as much when they’re not athletically involved.
- Inform the principal at each school so they can understand that more teachers that coach sports make it easier to reach the students academically
- Get parents involved who can volunteer as assistant coaches
Food for athletes
Athletes who participate after school need pregame meals and snacks. They might be away from home until midnight or later on game days, depending on schedule and location. These are young athletes who are growing and burning hundreds of calories during practice and play. They don’t need four-course meals, but they do need proper food.
- This is where parent involvement might come into play. Parents might just need someone to ask if they will volunteer to make spaghetti or other high carbohydrate foods.
- Perhaps grocery stores or local business can donate prepared food or dry food like spaghetti.
- Some schools may have the budget to create a full-time athletic director position at each school to fundraise for snack and meals.
Some schools have very poor facilities or just basic ones with restrooms and a gym, perhaps showers that students may not be allowed to use. When students have limited facility resources it limits the types of sports that can be offered to students, when those can be played and who can play. Some students may be away from home all evening just because they have to wait their turn to use a communal gym. Others who play field sports may have to travel miles to a field for practice or games. Adequate facilities are necessary to increase the quality of life for coaches, players, and their families.
- Finding community partners can increase resources and share burdens
- More encouragement from school and parents
Lack of Community Involvement
Getting buy-in and involvement from all stakeholders is no easy task. Stakeholders include other students, parents, family members, teachers, administration, churches, clubs and local businesses. It’s a vicious cycle of participation and motivation not just for the athletes and their academic requirements, but for the community. It’s challenging to get support for the mundane events of everyday athletics programs. But community involvement keeps athletic students engaged and participating in their programs and events.
- Ideas to get participation might include recognition on a school marquee, newsletters, email, social media account and such. Pretty much advertisement for the community member in the form of recognition so that they will be involved in the athletics programs.
- The student body could hand out free tickets to games, VIP seating, or sell school t-shirts.
Education is a circle of relationships that support or hinder student success. The athletics programs are necessary for students to be healthy; they supply motivation for students and build their stamina. They foster teamwork, problem-solving, grit, and perseverance. These programs might be the anchor or turning point for many inner city students to graduate and pursue careers or college.