It’s High School
Today’s Charlotte (NC) Observer carries an article about Charlotte area schools keeping elite coaches. The article centers around Aaron Brand who coached Vance High School to last year’s championship game, but he has accepted a position at Irmo High School in Columbia, S.C. Brand is quoted as, “They have excellent facilities, and I think they care a little bit more about football there and the pay increase was too much to turn down. Still, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.” The Irmo weight room and playing field “dwarf anything Vance has to offer” and Brand will have daily lunchroom duty, teach no classes, and make more than $100,000. Langston Wertz, Jr., a reporter for the Observer, writes in another article that suggest ways to retain elite coaches, “In many ways, high school football coaches are as valuable as principals. Sports is the ultimate drop-out prevention program and there’ s no high school sport as big as football. Having an elite football coach should be valued. And apparently it is at many schools across the border.” Wertz quotes Tom Knotts, a football coach, “But the powers that be (in the Charlotte school system) have to decide if it’s [football programs]important to them. I know academics always comes first, but football sets the tone for every school. You can ask anybody that. Every principal, some begrudgingly, they all will admit it.” Knotts says that, “Teaching a full load is unheard of down here in South Carolina. They value equality of football and they know what it takes for coaches to be prepared.”
“Well!”, to quote George Will, a fan of sports. While academics is important, the ones in a school system making $100,000 a year or more are the non-teachers. The ones who supervise the lunchroom each day. The ones who work to create a tone-setting program for a school. The ones who help prevent students from dropping out of school. They are the elite! I don’t think so.
I do not begrudge Brand or Knotts or any teacher a good salary. However, I argue the very concept of any coach or teacher being elite. That mind set is a slap in the face of every teacher of English, history, art, band, history, whatever the program because most of them are elites. I know that some teachers are not hard workers or care for their students. But most are, and they, too, deserve the financial support that gives good resources such as a weight room, salary, supplies, and good fields on which to play. No person who wins a championship(s) is elite because of that fact. If we as a culture travel that road, we will eventually crash and burn because we will be valuing mis-placed principles. Winning is not the reason for sports just as it is not the reason for a band program or art room or dance studio or any other activity offered for the education of a child. Being elite is a goal. Students who participates in an activity may strive to be the best, but it is not reached by winning play-off games.
People who say that “academics always come first” but do not celebrate academic achievement until graduation each year or recognize a student for scoring high on a national exam or having a painting displayed in an art show or learning how to march and play a tuba in concert with many other musicians, is not being honest. The words are there, but not the action. That is in the field, weight room, salary, and mis-placed belief that only football can set the tone for a school.
To deny that our culture has a love affair with some sports would be silly. However, we are discussing high school. Every offering for a youngster should be viewed in the lens of preparing that youngster for life after high school, where the winning will not used to live a life of quality, but the skills learned will be utilized each day. And to argue that one sport is the reason that some boys and a few girls stay in high school is recognized, but if we adults are not preparing those students through rigorous academics and other activities, only football, we cheat them in terrible ways.
A large salary for lunchroom supervising and coaching one sport is not justified, but it seems some school systems “down here in South Carolina” disagree with me. I suggest those systems re-examine priorities of their educational programs. Football should remain only one more offering for students who are in school to prepare while studying and playing.