Letters to the Editor

Students or athletes?

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

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Dear Editor,

The current centre of public attention is the 2019 Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association Boys' and Girls' Championships and the recent incident between some popular student athletes and a teacher at a prominent Corporate Area high school. With this in mind, it is appropriate that we use this opportunity to explore an issue that has existed for quite some time, but is perennially overlooked, the treatment or exploitation of student athletes in the education system.

Most will agree that, as the name suggests, student athletes are students first and athletes second.

Students, as the wards of these institutions, are under their guidance and tutelage. The primary function of a school is to impart knowledge in the form of a curriculum for specific academic subject areas; however, the other functions of the institution should not be ignored.

According to sociologist Talcott Parsons, schools are agents of secondary socialisation and serve to inculcate values in students such as morality, discipline, and integrity. Parents have reposed trust and confidence in the school to act responsibly in the care of their child and to help to mould them into upstanding members of society.

All students are ambassadors for their schools, not just athletes, quiz team members, or any other subset or group. The same sanctions for breaking rules must be applied right across the board, regardless of any extra-curricular involvement. There should be no culture of impunity or allowance of the flouting of rules. Where there exists favourable treatment or a bias towards student athletes in applying disciplinary sanctions this will only cause a loss of faith by other students in the school administration.

It should never just be about putting points on the scoreboard. The holistic development of students in all spheres is the aim of the school and none should be totally sacrificed for the other. When a school only pays attention to the physical conditioning of the student and their sporting performances and then completely ignores their social, mental and academic advancement that is tantamount to exploitation.

While the school does play a role in helping to hone athletic talent or capabilities, the academic well-being of student athletes should take priority, as their sporting career may be cut short through unforeseen circumstances. It is important that schools impress upon all student athletes the importance of academics and having good values and morals. Without a strong academic footing it is difficult to succeed or even function in the world after they end their sports careers.

Many student athletes at traditional 'sporting powerhouse' high schools transferred from another institution and struggle to keep up with the academic standard of their new school. When schools are aware of their student athletes underperforming in academics they should make provisions to get them up to the required standards.

It is wrong to bring a student into a school and only give attention to their sporting development, while leaving them to fend for themselves academically or otherwise. Consideration should be given to the time required for transfer students to assimilate the culture and requirements of the school. Student athletes should be made to feel a part of the school family at all times just as all other students should. When a student is recruited for the purposes of representing the school in whatever sporting discipline, remember this student will still be there in the off-season and the school is responsible for their development in every aspect.

Payton Patterson

Talk Up Yout advocate


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