As a young student athlete growing up in this city and enrolled in its schools, I can attest to the fact that athletics provided many positive experiences for me. My future and my sense of values were tremendously influenced by some wonderful coaches. Athletics kept me and many others who were under its spell occupied and interested in wholesome activities when we might otherwise have been engaged in acts of delinquency, vandalism or drugs. My coaches exerted a powerful influence on me and my fellow teammates. The discipline of sports carried over into the classroom and, ultimately, into our lives.
That's why caution is the word when applying arbitrary standards to activities that affect the lives of students. The D.C. school board has tentatively approved a new policy requiring all students to maintain at least a C average in order to participate in extracurricular activities, including athletics. The rule would take effect in September.
Few will question the intentions of the C-average policy, but many are wondering about its impact.
Our concerns must go deeper than those manifested by the NCAA and its Proposition 48. We at the secondary-school level bear a greater responsibility for helping our students survive from day to day. The opportunities could well be the last for so many of our young inner-city athletes.
What do we say to a kid whose academic performance is in the C-minus range but whose athletic or artistic talents are in the A-plus range?
Terrell H. Bell, the former secretary of education, in an address July 3, 1984, to the National Federation of State High School Associations, hit the nail on the head when he said, "Your association knows as few groups in America do that the other side of academics, if properly balanced, are school activities." Said Secretary Bell, "Given the great diversity of the human personality, the random distribution of talent and the wide range of individual intelligence, it is simply common sense to create an environment that is tailored and fine-tuned so that all God-given talent and intelligence is nourished in school."
Bell pinpointed "motivation" as the key to attaining academic excellence. High school sports programs and other activities oftentimes provide just the motivation a child needs. Let's make sure those activities are always available.