In Defense of the Athletic Period

**Reprinted from Texas Coach with permission from Coach Rutledge.

This is a critical time for public education in Texas.  With a $27 billion dollar state budget shortfall, an estimated increase of 170,000 new students in Texas over the next two years, and increasing state mandates, the school finance issue has become the driving force in this legislative session.

The discussion to eliminate the athletic period from the school day is disturbing.  Most of this discussion centers on the financial crisis facing our public schools.  Some believe that eliminating athletics from the school day can generate financial savings.  This is debatable, and even if it was true, the small short-term savings in our school budgets is not worth the extreme long-term cost to our students, our schools and our state.

We have to look objectively at the evidence and face the reality that teaching our young people is more than just facts and figures and test scores.  If we are truly concerned about the lives of our students; about them being attracted to the many negative influences in our society today (violence, drugs, alcohol, pornography, gangs, unwanted teen pregnancy, etc.); about how they are spending their time; about the need to create affiliations with their schools and with positive role models in wholesome activities, we will realize the need far outweighs the small sum that may be saved.  Our students have a need to belong and to be a part of something...and if that something isn’t at school it will be somewhere else, most likely on the streets.

Sound athletic programs can provide valuable lessons for practical situations.  The daily influential power of a positive coach can be life changing.  Student-athletes experience daily victories discovering within themselves the ability to overcome adversity, to develop leadership skills, to develop winning attitudes, to be hard workers, to be a part of a team which requires sacrifice and service to others.  These things are the direct result of quality coaching and the value of coaching kids every day...helping them make strong choices and develop strong habits.

Scientific studies have demonstrated that athletic activities are proven cost effective and complementary components of the comprehensive secondary school program.   As stated in “The Case for High School Activities” presented by the National Federation of State High School Associations, “At a cost of only one to two percent of an overall school’s budget, high school athletic programs are one of the best bargains around.”

The elimination of the athletic period would greatly reduce participation in many of our schools.  All workouts would be before or after school and will cause some schools to eliminate some sub-varsity teams due to lack of facilities and space.  This erosion of participation begins a chain of events that could eventually lead to disinterested students and schools that lack discipline and motivation.

With the elimination of the athletic period, Texas public schools will also lose the most effective at-risk program they have in place.  The most significant factor is the opportunity for these students to receive the instruction and counsel of the high school coach on a daily basis.  Coaches are concerned with the academic progress of each athlete.  Coaches, in many cases, are the primary disciplinarians in a school.  They insist on proper conduct and behavior from their athletes and students.

There is a huge volume of scientific evidence that provides a relatively consistent association between participation in high school athletics and many positive educational outcomes.  Research has noted that athletic participation has a significant positive correlation with:


1.   Academic achievement

2.   Good school attendance

3.   Good self-concept

4.   Sociability

5.   High self-expectations

6.   Formation of educational goals

7.   Prospects for college attendance

8.   A high rate of retention (staying in school)

9.   Good conduct

10.Optimum physical fitness


12.Leadership skills

13.Better habits of eating, sleeping and exercise.

14.Calmness and poise under pressure

15.The ability to work with others towards a common goal.

16.The ability to sacrifice for the common good.

17.Pride and graciousness in achievement.

18.The ability to overcome adversity.

19.Later success in life.


The most important things that take place in the athletic period are not about winning a game or teaching skills.  It is about the intangibles that we have the opportunity to teach like no other place in education.  It is about a daily structured educational setting to help teach our student/athletes to achieve their maximum capabilities as a person first, and then as an athlete.

Our athletic programs instill a sense of pride in community, teach lifelong lessons of teamwork and self-discipline, and facilitate the physical and emotional development of the young people of Texas.

It is counterproductive to further damage our schools by eliminating the athletic period at a time when youngsters are in such need of continued positive peer association, professional guidance, structure, discipline and accountability.


D. W. Rutledge, Executive Director bio
Texas High School Coaches Association