Luke Graham: True worth of sports |

Luke Graham: True worth of sports

Luke Graham.

— It’s tough to equate the true value of high school sports. But school districts across the country are being forced to do just that. Budget concerns for high school sports aren’t just in Steamboat Springs. They’re a nationwide problem. Many states are having a pay-for-play debate. Most Colorado schools already have participation fees students have to pay. But as education dollars shrink statewide, sports inevitably are going to start to feel the pinch.

In Steamboat, the athletic department is trying to find ways to bridge the gap and make sports self sufficient and sustainable. They’ve got some great ideas. Of course, if it gets worse in the future, they may have to start cutting programs.

Most people aren’t for cutting programs. But it’s understandable when it comes down to teachers and personnel losing their livelihood because of cuts. That’s more important than sports.

But sports’ true worth is hard to explain.

Steamboat may offer nearly as many sports as Cherry Creek while being five times smaller, but that’s the beauty of playing sports at a smaller school. This year alone, nearly 92 percent of students at Steamboat Springs High School participated in a sport or activity.

That’s an astounding number, and the studies don’t lie when it comes to high school students that play a sport or do an activity. Grade-point averages are higher, attendance is better and aspirations beyond high school generally are higher.

Those who have played high school sports know their true value.

Going to practice every day and working hard are two things people who play sports can take with them for the rest of their lives. But for so many, the biggest thing high school sports provide is growth in interpersonal relationships.

Few high school athletes go onto college to play a sport. For most, it’s high school athletics that teach what it takes to develop friendships. Athletes in high school generally don’t lose that sense of camaraderie. As people go on in their lives, there’s less access to that type of friendship. There is less access to that type of rivalry.

That’s why it’s so tough to put a monetary value on high school sports. There are so many of those little things people can’t see that make high school sports not just relevant, but so beneficial.

Although the budget woes are becoming more of a problem, the athletic department in Steamboat seems to be on the right track. They’re finding ways to make up for budget shortfalls.

They’re collaborating closely with the Steamboat Springs Booster Club to make fundraising a goal. They’re working on finding ways to cut back and use the most of the their money.

They’re working to find ways to still make high school sports — one of the best teaching tools in life — viable.

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