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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Do Sports Trump Academics?

Yes, I am a proud parent, and when it comes to bragging about my kids' achievements I'm not shy. The Roanoke Times' SwoCo Blog did post my blurb about my daughter's first place state win for Prepared Speech in the Skills USA competition that was held this past weekend. Thank you!

I hope that Burton sends the Roanoke Times, as well as other media outlets, a press release about the Skills USA competition and all the students who placed well. I noticed when the students won the District VII competition last month, they didn't receive any acknowledgment, no press, nothing, not even a congratulations from their home schools. You can be darn sure if these kids were on some sort of sports team and placed first in the state their pictures would be splattered everywhere. The Board of Supervisors would be honoring them. Their home schools would be touting their abilities, make an announcement congratulating the winners, putting them in the newsletter, or at the very least the principal would acknowledge an e-mail with a "job well done." Heck, if these kids went to school in Salem and placed first in the state for some sort of sport, the city would put up a plaque in the median on 419. I hope I'm wrong and these students do get some sort of pat on the back, but I do have a question. Why do students who do well academically not get the same respect as those students who do well in sports?

That is something that has irked me throughout my children's academic career. When I was coaching the elementary school chess team, I made sure those kids got press and acknowledgment whenever they won a tournament. I felt their accomplishments were just as "important" as the students who could hit a ball far. As the kids get older it's clear physical sports become way more "important" than mental sports. Parents, students, educators, coaches, and especially schools find more prestige in sports than academics. The higher up the education ladder, the more "important" sports are. I believe kids have a better opportunity to get a scholarship worth more money from a college through sports than anything else. So are our priorities screwed up?

Not only do some students not want to participate in sports, some students are physically unable to. Point in case, my daughter. She has a medical condition (MHE) that has prevented her from enjoying even the most basic physical activities. She doesn't whine about it, and although there's been times where other students have teased her, she never once cried, "Why me?" Instead she's harnessed her brain power.

What's really amazing about her winning this Prepared Speech competition is that she has had a speech impediment that I tried to have corrected with the Roanoke County schools since she was in kindergarten. Unfortunately the speech teacher she had in elementary school did nothing to help her. I never could understand how having a child color pictures, or play with play-doh, would help a lisp. It was keep busy work. When I found out my daughter was left alone with a coloring book in the speech teacher's room while the teacher went to do volunteer work at her daughter's middle school, I freaked out and pulled her out of the class. The teacher resented my child, thinking she was only getting speech lessons because she couldn't participate in gym. Yes, I inisted on gym period (I had to pull her out of gym after she got hurt and the gym teacher told me he had 500 students to worry about and couldn't focus on just her) as the time she get "help" so as now to interrupt her education. How the speech teacher couldn't hear her impediment was beyond me. But I digress.

At home we've tried to help her as much as possible, correcting whenever she would say something wrong, which is ironic since I pronounce so many words wrong. With my New York accent and her hearing a Southern accent her whole life she's developed a Boston-like one..."Say water." She's still not a "perfect speaker" and she's the first one to laugh that she actually won a state competition in Prepared Speech..."Is there no one in this entire state who is a better speaker?!"

I tell her it's not just how you say the words, but the meaning behind the words you write that's important. She did write a great speech and practiced the delivery over and over again. She's Italian so she talks with her hands and is animated, and has a strong stage presence, so I really wasn't surprised she won. The national championship will be held in Kansas City in June. She won't be able to attend. Sometimes medical conditions stop students from not only physical competitions, but academic ones too. She has surgery scheduled at UVA to remove tumors on both legs and her arm the same week. This will be her third surgery in three years, and the most invasive. Although she feels bad she can't represent Virginia, she still doesn't complain, "Why me?" She's just happy she got as far as she did. I know in the future she will go even further. She's already a world champion in my eyes.

Congratulations to all the students who competed from Burton. Whether you placed or not, you did a great job! Good luck to those students who will be representing Virginia...we're proud of your achievements.


  1. Congratulations to your daughter! That's a great photo of her with her medals. :)
    Sports trumping academics, at least in the public eye, is nothing new nor local to this area. Part of me has to wonder if it comes down to a very primal reasoning of where the hunters & warriors were so vital to a culture's livelihood.
    Of course, on the other hand, I think in those societies they also tended to be wise enough to have equal respect for other positions. Perhaps that is the part we've foolishly left behind?

  2. Thanks Carrie...interesting perspective.