High school sports: It's just a game
Olivia Marrali/The Explorer
The Hudson Hockey Team defends its winning streak against University School at Kent State’s ice rink during the second round of state playoffs on Feb. 28. Players are often injured during games that leave them unable to play the rest of the season, while fans cheer them on.
Is it just me, or have high school sports morphed into a version of war? Swearing. Screaming. Breaking rules. Fighting. Injuries. Certainly, it feels like some games and matches are “life or death” situations. These days, nationally, high school athletics have taken on a mean edge and high stakes, for better or for worse, athletes themselves must decide.
Remarkably, “High school athletes account for an estimated 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year,” according to stopsportsinjury.org. As more athletes suffer pains or injuries, one may infer that the levels of intensity and competitiveness in high school sports have increased.
What happened to playing for the love of the game? Once upon a time, little kids kicked around soccer balls and threw baseballs, laughing every second. Time progressed and the more skilled players emerged. Enter rules and schedules. Add competition, and we have the perfect mix for intense confrontations.
Sports have the potential to be extremely fulfilling activities. They encourage leadership, dedication, time management, teamwork and sportsmanship. A little friendly competition even helps one develop skills to stay calm under rough situations and succeed in the real world. Organized activities also allow athletes to form friendships and healthy relationships with adults, namely coaches. Furthermore, sports allow participants to stay healthy by encouraging them to regularly exercise. Most importantly, though, sports bring, or should bring, enjoyment to those who participate in them.
Not only do sports help build character traits in athletes, they keep those involved in safe environments. According to the PBS series “Sports: Get in the Game,” participating in sports can help high schoolers combat drugs, peer pressure, pregnancy and dropout rates. With the numerous benefits of sports, why have some games and matches become truly frightening conflicts between teams or individuals? Sports should be a recreational activity that helps kids develop strong moral characters, not scare away passionate student-athletes.
Yet today, games and matches do not seem to foster enjoyment of sports. Team rivals duke out rough physical matches. Injuries result from foul playing. Spontaneous fights break out as a result of frustration or anger. Screaming and swearing pour out of mouths. We even have referees to make sure things do not get out of hand. What have sports become?
Take the Todd Bertuzzi incident for example. A National Hockey League player, Bertuzzi seriously injured Steve Moore in a rematch between the Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche. Moore had dealt Bertuzzi’s teammate a minor concussion in a prior encounter, but his hit was called legal. Bertuzzi punched Moore violently and jumped on top of Moore as he fell to the ice in the rematch, according to CBC Sports. Yet this incident comes at no surprise for a combative sport well known for its violent outbreaks. As high school athletes watch professionals battle, they begin to follow the unacceptable negative example.
I understand that training tirelessly to develop into a better athlete makes one less willing to accept subpar performances, especially if college scholarships are on the line, but frustration to the point of inflicting harm on others is unacceptable. Not being able to perform one’s best every day is infuriating, but being able to overcome such challenges allows one to not only be a better athlete but an overall better person. Having the ability to restrain one’s self and carry on shows mental toughness, an invaluable character trait.
Everyone hates losing. Yet, as Benjamin Franklin stated, “The things which hurt, instruct.” While unwanted, losses propel athletes to work harder in order to improve. Success afterwards is therefore more fulfilling.
Truthfully, though, wins and losses should not matter. Exercising to stay healthy and having fun are more important than any victory. Athletes, therefore, should take their intensity down a level and focus on enjoying the game for everyone’s benefit.
Sports should be pleasurable and exciting, not tedious and despicable. Athletes need to take a step back and play for pleasure rather than rewards or revenge. Playing a sport is not a life or death situation. It’s just a game after all.