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Getting Cut From A Sports Team

The case against cutting

Here are some reasons against cutting below high school varsity:

1. Cutting hurts the children who need sports the most

In a cruel irony, the children who are cut, as the least skilled and the ones with the least self-confidence, are the very children who would benefit most from continued participation in an activity where they can learn such skills as a good work ethic and cooperation with a group of peers towards a common goal. Failure does not build self-esteem.

2. Cutting is exclusionary and promotes elitism

It is especially important for teenagers to know that they belong; that they fit in. No wonder freshman handbooks of most high schools advise incoming students to participate in sports. Of the one hundred tips handbooks give freshmen; joining a sports team is always in the top five.

Cutting tells teenagers that they don't fit in, that they don't belong. This is the wrong message to send during adolescence, a time when teenagers are confused about their bodies and want the approval of their peers.

As the most prominent of all high school extracurricular activities, athletics continues to confer on its participants the highest levels of status and prestige in our teenage culture. The feelings by athletes that they are special tends to lead to disharmony, the creation of cliques, and to reinforcing the "jock culture," not to promoting feelings of community, full inclusion and cooperative learning that schools work so hard to promote.

It is particularly ironic that, unlike most private schools, which are by definition exclusive when it comes to admissions but generally extremely inclusive when it comes to sports (to the point of giving everyone who comes out for a team a roster spot and requiring participation in sports), public schools, which are by definition inclusive when it comes to academics, are exclusive when it comes to sports. They do not guarantee each child a place in the sports program who wants to participate and don't require participation in sports, much less provide alternatives to team sports such as intramurals, dance, yoga, etc.

3. Cutting puts kids at risk of anti-social behavior

The creation of separate classes of athletic "haves" and "have nots" not only promotes elitism, but, argues Katherine Newman in her 2004 book Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings, the jock culture it spawns "is responsible for a great deal of the damage done to the boys who cannot compete." A no-cut policy provides boys an outlet through sports for their aggression and need to connect socially with other boys.

A 2001 report to the Surgeon General found that teenagers "who have weak social ties, that is, who are not involved in conventional social activities and are unpopular at school, are at high risk of becoming violent, as are adolescents with antisocial, delinquent peers. These two types of peer relationships often go together, since adolescents who are rejected by or unpopular with conventional peers may find acceptance only in antisocial or delinquent peer groups."

Another recent study found a positive association between playing interscholastic sports and an increase in the number of an athlete's friends who are academically oriented. The study also found that participation in sports "significantly increased social ties between students and parents, students and the school, parents and the school, and parents and parents. ..."

The same study found that intramural athletes do not reap the same benefits from participation as do interscholastic athletes. Again, the flipside is that cutting a teenager from an interscholastic sports program not only denies her the chance to participate, it is likely to adversely effect her connection with her parents, school and peers and her academic performance.