As an American who has lived and traveled extensively outside of the US, I find myself making comparisons between the US and other nations. Actually, there is no better way to recognize and appreciate the positive aspects of the US than to leave its borders and to experience life in another country. Over the last few years, I have encountered heightened criticism directed towards the US by friends from other countries. I agree that no country is perfect and there is always room for improvement. However, on this occasion, I would to like focus on something that is good about America; something that other nations would be wise to analyze and adopt. Here I wish to recognize the impressive, intricate, and successful American phenomenon of school sports programs which is a model for the world to follow.
At first, it may seem strange to highlight and promote America’s school sports programs as an example to the rest of the world. However, I contend that these programs have played and continue to play a vital role in America’s success. Without the positive impact of organized school sports programs, America would be a very different country. School sports programs is an American tradition that touches the very fiber of every citizen and resident of the United States every day.
The American tradition of school sports programs is unique in the world, bringing order, discipline and social development to American students at a very early age. Well-organized community and neighborhood leagues often compliment school leagues. This complex and impressive tradition includes league games, playoffs, and championships in every city in America every year for both boys and girls from elementary school through the college years.
I was watching my daughter’s junior varsity softball game at Marshall High School in Northern Virginia a few weeks ago. I sat in admiration of the determination of the players from both of the competing schools. These girls practice every day after school, play the games and then have to go home and study. I observed the dedication of the coaches, working primarily out of their love for the girls and for the game. I focused on the umpires. You would think that they were officiating a Major League game and not a high school JV team. Their respect and dedication to the game and to the girls was clear. Finally, I zoomed in on the parents and family. None of this would be possible without them. They not only support their girls with cheers of encouragement from the stands but they provide essential financial support through their donations, participation in fundraising and by volunteering. I came away from that game impressed and proud.
Multiply this example of my daughter’s softball game by the many other varieties of sports that are played throughout the year. Then multiply that by the thousands of schools and little league teams from elementary school through college, and you will began to appreciate the magnitude of one of the most comprehensive, impressive, and important of American traditions. American school sports programs also include the thousands of students who participate in this beautiful spectacle as cheerleaders, members of the marching band, the color guard, baton twirlers and others who put forth the same level of effort and dedication as the athletes every day. Without them, the experience would not be the same and these students reap great benefit from their participation.
This American phenomenon of comprehensive school sports programs provides many indirect benefits to the American society. This is where American kids first learn about loyalty. Loyalty to their school and to their team also known as School Spirit. I would be remiss not to mention the loyalty to the team mascots: the animated representations and nickname of the schools. Once a “Titan” always a “Titan”. Long live the “Panthers”. Depending upon the school a student can be a “Hoosier”, a “Bull Dog”, a “Horn Frog” or even a “Demon Deacon”; and this loyalty is for life! People from other countries have a difficult time trying to understand these customs. This tradition of school loyalty can easily transfer over to a loyalty, love and commitment for the country overall.
School sports programs are the breeding ground for the American professional, International and Olympic teams. They teach American students, at a very young age, the joy of winning without gloating and the lessons that come from losing like working harder, improving and trying again. School sports programs in America teach the importance of working as a unit and of how to depend on another to complete a common goal.
I consider this great tradition of organized school sports in America one the country’s great secret weapons for success and a model for the rest of the world. I thank and respect every parent, coach, referee, athlete, cheerleader, band member, color guard, trainer, field crew and all others who day in and day out invest the sweat, tears and time to keep this fantastic tradition alive and thriving.