In Newsworthy

This post was originally written on VNN Co-Founder Ryan H. Vaughn’s blog.

The education system in Michigan is struggling right now, thanks to budget cuts of hundreds of dollars per student.  This puts the onus on educators to make some very tough decisions about what is important for a student to learn, and who should a “successful high school student” be upon graduation.

Priorities have long ago been established that a graduate should be able to read, write and perform mathematic calculations at a basic level.  Much lower on the perceived scale of importance, school sports are often among the first educational tools that schools discuss cutting.

As a former high school athlete, I look back at my brief career in jerseys and sneakers as the origin of much of who I am today.  My competitive drive, my discipline, and any leadership abilities that I can claim all stem directly from my time on the hardwood.  Anything important in today’s world can only be accomplished with a team, and you certainly don’t learn how to function as part of a team, much less build and manage a team, from a book.

One of the most important thinkers in today’s economy, Seth Godin, wrote a blog post recently on what he thought we ought to be teaching high school students.  All but three (reading critically, the scientific method, personal finance) are most directly learned through participating in a team sport:

  • How to focus intently on a problem until it’s solved.
  • The benefit of postponing short-term satisfaction in exchange for long-term success.
  • How to read critically.
  • The power of being able to lead groups of peers without receiving clear delegated authority.
  • An understanding of the extraordinary power of the scientific method, in just about any situation or endeavor.
  • How to persuasively present ideas in multiple forms, especially in writing and before a group.
  • Project management. Self-management and the management of ideas, projects and people.
  • Personal finance. Understanding the truth about money and debt and leverage.
  • An insatiable desire (and the ability) to learn more. Forever.
  • Most of all, the self-reliance that comes from understanding that relentless hard work can be applied to solve problems worth solving.

Sports can teach us so much, and for most of us without a 50″ vertical leap we have only four years to soak it all in before that opportunity is gone.

Or we can choose to eliminate school sports because of budget cuts.  And then we’ll need to learn how to lead a team in math class.

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