The key to assuring an activity is educational is to consider the effect on the student of every decision made. For example, what is the effect on a student who . . .
gets cut from the team?
never gets in a game?
never experiences a win, or never a loss?
frequently hears vulgarity or profanity?
is taught how not to get caught breaking a rule?
If one student’s participation is at the expense of another student’s self-esteem, whether opponent or teammate, we can’t justify the program. It’s not consistent with the educational mission of schools.
If we ridicule those who fail, or if we lavish too much praise on those who achieve, we can’t justify the program. It’s not educational athletics.
If we direct or pressure students to specialize in only athletics or non-athletic activities, or in just one sport or activity, we can’t justify the program. It’s not educational.
If we miss or misuse the teachable moments of school sports – split seconds of time and circumstance in which to teach values like commitment, discipline, integrity, hard work and teamwork, we can’t justify the program. It’s not educational.
We assure the program is educational when we consider the effect on the student and when we seize the positive purposes of teachable moments that permeate the program.
None of this means we can’t have rules that, when violated, remove the privilege of participation. And none of this means we cannot have teams with both starters and substitutes, and contests that determine wins and losses. It means that there are objectives that go much deeper and outcomes that go much further.