Ben Rowley

Another school year is winding and down and with it another eventful year of athletics. State championships were claimed, records were broken, and a certain prolific scorer’s number was retired. A few thousand miles were added to our odometers, our voices are recovering from intense screaming (fault the refs), and our waistlines are a little broader from the fast food we scarfed along the way.

We love our sports here in Lincoln County. We love to follow the kids around and cheer them on. We love fierce competition and, of course, winning.

But some say we love it too much. They claim we are too focused on athletics and not enough on the academics. Sure we can win a championship, but do we know how to spell the word?

My answer is, of course we can, as long as we have Google.

Just kidding.

We don’t know how to use computers.

Just kidding.

It’s okay to be sporty. The benefits are well documented. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, extracurricular activities, including athletics, promote citizenship, community pride, teach teamwork and self-discipline and help with young peoples’ physical and emotional health. These activities teach practical lessons – how to work with people, how to handle success and failure, and the importance of working hard and doing your best.

The association backs these claims with study upon study. So let’s just squash the idea right now that extracurricular activities, including sports, are a bad thing.

But of course even a good thing can be taken too far, and, okay, I admit there are times we get overzealous. Sometimes we work ourselves into an angry frenzy at games, lambasting the officials more than cheering on our players. Sometimes there is too much daydreaming about the next game during school hours.

But don’t over-blow it. Our schools almost always meet AYP, and our graduation rate is 10 percent higher and our dropout rate is 4 percent lower than Clark County’s. Sports are fun and oft times make the state-mandated things we do in school bearable. Sports give many students, who wouldn’t otherwise care, a reason to pay attention to their education, and it gives all participants lessons beyond the standard curriculum.

The discussion should be about how we improve on a good thing. How do we improve our sportsmanship? How do we continue to have the right balance of focus between curricular and extracurricular? How can we lighten the load of our teachers, who double as coaches, who double as bus drivers, who double as class advisers? What activities can we add so all students can be involved in something they enjoy and nobody is left out?

I’ve been in locker rooms, as a student and as an adult, after Alamo won a state title and after losing a state title. In both instances, the lessons taught were similar. This isn’t life or death. Take the work ethic you learned here and use it in your life. Same with the teamwork. Same with the leadership skills. Don’t be afraid to try. Understand that there will be successes and failures in life. The list goes on.

These are the most important lessons a kid can learn in school. They transcend all academic knowledge and career skills. They are taught well in Lincoln County and have served generations of alumni well.

Let’s continue it, improve on it, and support it.