Nick Stevens

Removing athletics would make education problems worse

Posted March 11, 2009
Updated March 12, 2009

Charles Albertson knows the importance of interscholastic athletics. He knows how they provide students incentives to do better in the classroom, how they keep students off the street and how they foster a sense of community in their schools.

Yet Albertson, a North Carolina senator from Duplin County, has proposed a bill that would suspend all athletic programs at schools deemed low-performing.

“Look, I played sports when I went to school,” Albertson said. “I know how important they are, but we rally around those that play sports, and we give them help, you know, to the coaches and the staff, which is important and it’s the right thing to do. But we’ve got to find a way to find more community support and more support for those other kids that are failing.”

If we’re trying to build community support for schools, it makes no sense whatsoever to take away the largest bond between the community and the school — sports.

Consider the number of people who take their kids out on a Friday night to watch a high school football game or the student sections at basketball games in the winter. No other activity at a school does a better job of bringing people from all over the community together.

If this bill is passed, Douglas Byrd, Hillside, James Kenan, Northern Durham, Southern Durham, Warren County, Weldon and Westover high schools would all be affected, and a total of 23 schools across the state would see their athletic programs folded.

“It seems to me like they’re trying to use athletics as the reason for the low test scores, when these are kids who are trying to do more with their education than those who just come to school from 7:30 until 2:30 every day,” said Northern Durham football coach Anthony Sullivan.

Even after being classified as a low-performing school by No Child Left Behind standards, the Hillside athletic program has sent a number of student-athletes to college, and not just on athletic scholarships.

Hillside girls’ basketball coach Ovester Grays has watched 56 of 57 players he’s coached move on to college in his 12 seasons as the Hornets’ head coach.

Football players Desmond Scott and Corey Gattis will play at Duke next fall, while Asia Williams, a member of the girls’ basketball team, will play at Wake Forest.

Albertson pointed to a study conducted by James H. Johnson at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on academics in Duplin County as the source that drove him to propose this legislation.

“The study showed that only 41 percent of our children were passing end of year reading and math tests,” Albertson said.

According to a report in the Goldsboro News-Argus, the study also showed that only 44 percent of students in Duplin County took the SAT, and the average score was more than 100 points below the state average.

But one study that involves one county out of the state’s 100 is hardly enough evidence to pass legislation that could bar athletics at more than 375 of North Carolina’s public high schools.

Throughout a phone interview conducted earlier this week, Albertson noted several times that he wanted to rally the community around all students, not just student-athletes.

“All the community has to do is make sure that 50 percent, just 50 percent of the student body, passes the end of year reading and math tests,” he said. “That’s all they have to do. Is that asking too much that at least half of the students in the school would pass?”

But Albertson never gave an example of how the community could make sure half the student body actually would pass the standardized tests. And that’s because it’s not a community problem. The problem starts at home, with parents and with the lack of leadership many underperforming students receive from them.

The bill is well-intended, but its consequences vastly outweigh the positives it seeks to accomplish.

Athletics are crucial to the high school experience. Students learn things in the athletic setting that cannot be taught in any other arena. Those who participate in interscholastic athletics have time and time again been shown to have higher grades, a higher graduation rate, fewer discipline problems and better attendance.

The fact of the matter is, not all students go to school for the books and classes. Many students go to school for the incentive of participating in athletics. As a result our society gets a better educated citizen when they graduate.

Should athletics be stripped from these low-performing schools, we will see the dropout rate increase, and the idea that we will somehow be helping these schools will be proven ineffective.

The student-athletes that are making the “good grades,” which could be anywhere from a 2.0 to a 5.0, are going to transfer to other schools to play sports. That leaves the lower-performing students in the school, and the NCLB grade will decline even more.

Though not the bill’s intention, that is the reality its implementation will cause.

“I guess the end result [Albertson] is trying to reach is admirable,” said Bill Sewell, who works with the non-profit Triangle Educational Advancement Foundation, which provides student-athletes in the Triangle college scholarships. “But punishing kids that do perform well is very unfair.”

Contact Nick Stevens at or (919) 272-4371.


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  • jadcockswim Mar 18, 2009

    Both of my elementary aged kids participate in year round swimming and basketball. Every teacher they have had compliment my kids on their focus, discipline and good behavior. Sports teach kids life lessons that accompany them always. Both of my kids are A honor roll as well. That being said, not all kids that are good athletes are good students. I believe that academics come first. But, for some kids their natural abilities lie elsewhere and they should not be penalized for that. Yes, schools are to educate. Parents are responsible for raising educated, moral children. But, realistically, how many great athletes would we have lost and their lives shattered without high school sports programs? Probably too many to count.

  • AlleyOops Mar 18, 2009

    Another good story on this:

    Keep the heat up guys!!!

  • uncwalum Mar 16, 2009

    bobbycharles...I take high resentment to your comment, "What positives come from athletics other than getting the girls and getting special privileges from teachers and coaches? None."

    I teach high school and coach and I will tell you that my players have NEVER gotten special privileges from me. In fact, if you talked to the players I have taught, they would tell you that I was tougher on them. And before you say I passed them all because they were athletes, ask the two that have failed my class. I have a professional duty to teach first and I do. But, I see athletics as my way to reach out to many kids who don't have a positive influence at home and I have done that since I started in this profession on day one. I admire any band director, coach, drama director, tutor, mentor, etc. who puts in time after school with little compensation to reach out to all of our students.

  • ptfm922 Mar 13, 2009

    By the way bobbycharles, if you hate athletes so much, what are you doing on a sports site?

  • ptfm922 Mar 13, 2009

    Sorry, my little one hit the mouse. I can speak directly about Panther Creek High School. I have two kids that go to PC. One plays sports and the other does not. They are treated the same way when it comes to their academics. There is no extra help by anyone associated with the athletic department when it comes to my atheletes school work. They have the same opportunities for help if needed that the non-atheletes have. This comes down to the individual student and that students parents! If the student is not doing well there are plenty of programs available to get the help you need. The problem is to many parents are not monitoring what kids are doing until it is to late! Your statement about teams being like gangs is the most rediculous thing I have ever heard! The fact of the matter is, sports helps keep kids out of trouble. I am not saying that atheletes don't get in trouble, but there is an overwhelming amount that do not. Sounds to me like you need some help yourself!

  • ptfm922 Mar 13, 2009

    bobbycharles: I don't even know were to begin with you. I agree with gt_football, you must have had a bad time in High School!I can speak directly

  • gt_football Mar 13, 2009

    bobbycharles: Have you ever heard of Cary High, Southeast High, West Johnston or Broughton High schools? These are some of the MOST terrific BAND programs in the state of NC. They get PLENTY of recognition which is WELL DESERVED. Being a die hard Garner Trojan fan/alumni to say ALL athletic programs should be eliminated is ridiculous! I have the feeling from your post that maybe you had a tough time in high school but please before you post a response, if we eliminate all athletic programs, should this not include "THE BAND".

    Nick, I know we seldom agree however on this topic you have done an excellent job and should be commended for bringing this proposed bill to public attention.

  • afrocine2 Mar 13, 2009

    This is a classic example of tossing the Baby out with the Bath Water! Unless there is proof that these schools are underperforming because of Athletes then I see no reason to punish the jocks. My son attends Hillside and from what I see everyday, its not the athletes that are ruining the schools academic standing. There are kids who because of homelife or their own life choices, have no real desire to be in school. The jocks are there because they want to do better and understand that to remain eligible they must maintain their grades. The jocks are also the most easy to discipline because they already submit the the authority of the coaches and athletic department. So,in my eyes Bill 377 is a load of garbage and will not improve the academic standing at any of these schools. It will however, punish kids who are trying to do the right thing.

  • AlleyOops Mar 13, 2009

    You cannot say the "vast majority of high school athletes in this state are up to no good." Simply cannot do it. So maybe you went to a high school where the football team was always "up to no good." So what? Was the volleyball team? What about the soccer team? The wrestling team? What about those kids that loved every minute of being on the team, worked hard for their 3.8 GPA or so, but didn't play?

    Sports are an extracurricular activity just like ANY other. So while we're into cutting down on those bobbycharles, maybe we should amend this proposition to also end student government, chess clubs and most of all the BAND PROGRAMS at all these schools until everyone at the school can get their act together. Sound fair now?

  • bengalline50 Mar 12, 2009

    No Bobby athletics just provide the chance for further expectations. Ryan Haibach, the Fuquay football coach, and his staff hold all players to the highest expectations so does the whole community. And as for your whole thing about athletes not giving back I am greatly insulted. Not only do I play football but I am also in the process of finishing my Eagle Scout. Your comments are truly truly TRULY insulting. In fact I know there are just as many problems throughout the band, I know this because I have been in band the past 2 years.
    The true problem is not sports, its the moving away from community schools and the pride that comes with that. When you dont know what school your going to until 8th grade there is no pride. I am PROUD to be a bengal tiger, i BLEED orange. The movement away from this pride has done nothing but worsen the school system.