Focus should be on the classroom, not sports

By Kim Kile

During the last few weeks, events involving the athletics programs at Greenfield-Central have dominated social media and the news. We’ve been discussed on national talk sports radio shows, community members have started petitions to save a coach’s job, and the entire state has expressed opinions on the possible use of hashtags on the football field.

Lost in all of this outcry about how the school system is managing the athletic program is the fact that athletics should never be the focus of a school corporation.

Of course, athletics supplement our students’ academic education taking place in the classroom, but high school sports should never replace it and should never cause such controversy.

As an educator, I have to ask where this passion, activism, and emotional investment is in our community and state when it comes to our schools’ primary role of academically preparing students for their next steps.

Imagine if you will what education could look like if our community was as excited about academics as it was about sports.

A couple of years ago, Key and Peele of Comedy Central did a parody video based on ESPN’s Sports Center show in a piece called “Teaching Center.” It highlighted high-paid teachers moving from district to district, celebrated schools for their academic achievements and did a mock teachers draft exclaiming that the first draft pick had just become a millionaire.

It’s funny, except it’s not when you realize how much money, time and effort is spent on sports instead of educating our students and how much attention sports receive in comparison to the outstanding work being done in our classrooms.

Putting the financial differences aside, my biggest struggle with the attention given to athletic issues by parents and community members is that there are so many ways for them to channel that energy and passion into what is happening in the classroom.

Each year, the United Way needs volunteers to assist third-grade students with their reading in preparation for the statewide IREAD-3 test. Why not do that each week instead of complaining about coaching?

As a community, we desperately need a free tutoring center for students of all ages that is staffed by volunteers throughout the afternoon and evening. Wouldn’t it be amazing if adults valued that initiative and gave their time to getting it started?

For students, I know it’s harder to separate athletics and academics. For some, the incentive to do well in the classroom is tied to athletic eligibility. Participating in athletics gives them the motivation to persevere and complete graduation requirements.

In my dad’s case, years ago, athletics gave him the means to finance college so he could better himself. I truly understand the push-and-pull dynamic athletics and academics have with one another in the lives of our student-athletes. What discourages me, however, is when the adults involved elevate athletic issues to the point where they overshadow the student portion of our student-athletes’ lives.

Kim Kile is the director of school counseling at Greenfield-Central High School. She can be reached at kimskile@gmail.com.