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United Through High School Sports: Impact Beyond the Field

The high school sports environment is unique in that students cultivate a second family. This teaches them to care about each other and their community outside of the game, and in turn, gives them life skills that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Student athletes learn to manage time between homework, school, practice and competitions. This teaches them to prioritize and manage their own responsibilities which can help them in all aspects of life.


As the sport of football continues to be reshaped by lawsuits and public concerns about concussions, some schools have reacted to declining enrollment with flag leagues and intramural programs. But the most important factor for maintaining a high school sports program is building a culture that keeps players coming back, and that will take some time, coaches say.

High school coaches and administrators, who once battled student resistance to reforms in interscholastic athletics that stripped away Greek-letter societies and televised invitation-only combines, might be seeing the first cracks in their control of the sport. In recent years billion-dollar shoe companies have been allowed to enter the fray, and elite 7-on-7 tournaments are becoming more commonplace.

Rutledge, who led Converse Judson to four 5A championships over 17 seasons, says he is concerned that "select" teams are becoming more popular and serve as a way for recruiters to gain access to top players before they graduate. He said that in a survey of Dallas-area coaches last year, one third voiced concern about the proliferation of these teams.


High school sports teams are a staple of high school culture and student development. Students often develop close bonds with teammates who they can count on to support them both on and off the field. This sense of care and empathy transfers to post-high school experiences and allows participants to build a strong foundation for success throughout their lives.

Basketball is a team sport that involves two opposing five-player groups on a rectangular court competing with the primary objective of shooting a ball through an elevated circular band (referred to as the hoop). While basketball is most commonly played indoors when organized in leagues, it can also be enjoyed outdoors in less organized "pick-up" games and on summer playgrounds.

The 1920s saw a great expansion in interscholastic sports as the popularity of high school athletic competition became a major audience draw for national tournaments. Educators sought to control and reform sports by reining in rampant commercialization, aggrandizement and misbehavior that was eroding the educational mission of high school sports.

Track and Field

When school sports exploded during the 1920s, their popularity was fueled by excitement and the great national economic boom. But like the stock market crash of 1929, the expansion of interscholastic athletics would soon come crashing down as educators and administrators recognized that national tournaments were aggrandizing and commercializing high school sports.

A successful program requires time and patience to build a student athlete population. It also requires coaches to keep up with national trends and research. This information is critical in determining what types of competitions are best for their community.

In the cavernous HCZ Armory, Sayon Keita, a current scholar-athlete on the Harlem Children’s Zone track team, describes the community she has built with her teammates and coaches through hard work and consistent practice. They have become a second family to her and nurture her talents and ambitions. Through this culture of mentorship, she learns that by focusing on what is within her control, she can achieve her goals.

Interscholastic Competitions

The growth of interscholastic sports in America during the latter half of the nineteenth century was a haphazard and messy affair. Although educational authorities established leagues and state associations, students largely initiated and ran high school athletic programs. Some of these were outside the educational system, such as private golf clubs, while others were within the schools, like Worcester’s first team in 1859.

As these student-driven athletic competitions grew in popularity, the educational benefits of high school sports began to become apparent. Students gained valuable life-long lessons through their experiences on the field and in the classroom. They learned about teamwork and the value of hard work, which they carry with them throughout their lives.

Unfortunately, the development of high school sports was not a positive experience for all students. Educators must be vigilant in protecting and supporting all student-athletes. School leaders should stay current on national trends and research to ensure that they are creating the best possible environment for their student-athletes.