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SPORTS IN EDUCATION GEORGE V. MANN* Collegiate athletics has changed almost beyond recognition since Princeton sent a football team to play Rutgers in 1869. Team sports based on extramural competition have been transformed from displays of youthful exuberance at the end of the school day into commercial enterprises using selected, physically elite students at the expense of appropriate academic goals. The damage done to school programs, to the participating individuals, and to the neglected students is so great that steps should be taken to correct the myths and distortions invented to sustain the present commercial school-sport systems [I]. The scene in school sports is dominated by the 280 universities known in the trade as the "semi-pros" [2]. These large and usually statesupported schools are classified as NCAA I. They have annual athletic budgets averaging $2.5 million which they achieve with the two profitable sports, football and basketball. These institutions, representing 13 percent of all colleges and universities, dominate the sport scene by setting the rules, establishing recruiting practices in high schools, and serving as the recruiting resource for the professional sports teams. The relationship of such athletic activities to the proper goals of educational institutions is obscure. Many problems for both health and education arise from this commercial linkage of the education system with professional sports. The physical elitism of students selected for athletic teams will doom most of them to an inferior education, and the practice will leave the other 9095 percent of the student body with little or no health education. This is because coaches are businessmen, not educators. The athletes in contact sports have a very high rate of injury, and they are often mistreated for the sake of winning, leaving permanent disabilities. The author is indebted to Carol Lewis ofthe Vanderbilt Medical Library for her efficient literature search.»Career Investigator of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University, NashvUle, Tennessee 37232.© 1987 by The University of Chicago. AU rights reserved. 0031-5982/88/3101-0567$01.00 34 I George V. Mann ¦ Sports in Education The Olympic Games are closely related to these problems because the international competitors are generally drawn, at least in the United States, from college performers, and the medal winners often go on to professional careers in sports. The basic question for citizens is this: Should the present system of school athletics be allowed to continue? The answer to this will bear upon school programs for health education, upon recruitment of athletes both for college and professional sports, and upon the desirability of continuing with the Olympic Games. The inevitable answer raises the new question of better alternatives for optimizing the public health. The school systems use about 50 percent of our local taxes. The historical origin of organized sports was in the military. In the days offoot soldiers and hand-to-hand combat, strength and agility were measures of battlefield success. During peacetime, the soldiers and horsemen practiced their skills in tournaments and jousting matches, where the winners—or survivors—won promotions. Endurance was prized, and so the marathon grew out ofthe feat ofa messenger who ran about 25 miles with news of the Greek victory over the Persians at Marathon and—ominously—dropped dead at the finish. These militaristic competitions led in time to the great public displays in the Colosseum , where the most proficient gladiators fought wild animals, one another, or an occasional Christian while the multitudes shrieked [3]. As the French saying goes, "The more things change, the more they are the same." Television football is a lineal descendant of those spectacles. The merchants in any university town today view these sport spectacles and the spectators quite as the Roman merchants once did, because crowds bring money and profits. In 1983 the attendance at football games of NCAA schools was 53,000,000. In the secondary and tertiary school systems of America the athletes are a small, elite portion of the total student body. Students who participate in intercollegiate athletics represent 5 percent or less of the student body [2]. The participants are usually male because the female sports are still oflittle commercial value. The participants are typically black, large...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 34-41
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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