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HEREDIA: Are athletics taking precedence over academics?

Dr. Kristin Heredia
Dr. Kristin Heredia

This question should have a logical answer but it seems that parents, educators, and students are not always on the same page.

I know as a society we love sports! I love sports! They are fun to play and entertaining to watch. I understand on a financial level it creates a large amount of revenue for venues, programs, and people.

Athletics can also teach many lessons and offer opportunities to students. From an educational perspective, I see sports being a catalyst for students to focus more on their studies and to make more positive life choices. But at what point does our obsession with sports hinder our view of the importance of academics?

Parents are spending incredible amounts of money on athletics programs, travel teams, and getting their children individual coaching sessions. For example, in the area I live in pitching lessons for girls softball cost an average of $35/half hour. But when I talk to some parents about tutoring options they bark at spending $20 an hour for a math tutor. This is concerning.

On a social level I observe athletes getting way more attention than non-athletes. That is just a fact. The television media focus more attention on sporting events than suggesting the importance of getting an education. Schools and society move mountains for major sporting events and in comparison do very little to celebrate academic achievement. The perceived importance is evident.

I acknowledge sports can assist in keeping students in good academic standing and assist in scholarships to fund future education. But for a lot of athletes classes are looked at as “hoops” to jump through to play the game. Where is this attitude and perspective coming from? I have heard a parent say to their child, “Just do the bare minimum so you can pass the class and be eligible to play.” We have all heard of the coaches or teachers that give the athletes a little more lenience or a little more tutoring time to make sure they are eligible to play in the big game. If this is the attitude that adults are portraying towards education, how can we as a society expect children to see the benefits of academic success?

In the end, if you are raising a child who loves to play sports then a good balance is key. Education sharpens the mind and athletics sharpen the body. Athletics can keep kids healthier and have the potential to promote many positive lessons. However, parents and students alike must not forget the importance of academics and the role they play in their child’s future. They need to realize that as a society we play as a TEAM and that their contribution to society is imperative to improve our existence.

We are not curing diseases by sharpening our golf swing. We cannot lead children into the fantasy that being a professional athlete is their only route. As we know very few children will grow up to be professional athletes. For example, there were 73,660 football participants that played in the NCAA in 2017. Only 1.5 percent of those participants made it to the professional level. They will most likely need a plan B. We need to stress the importance of academics not only for individual success and security but also for the benefit of our society.

  • DR. KRISTIN HEREDIA lives in Ottawa and is loving everything life has to offer. She can be reached by emailing

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