What Are "Education-Based Athletics" and Why Should They Be Implemented?

What Are "Education-Based Athletics" and Why Should They Be Implemented?

Student-athletes are just that – students AND athletes. Their time is spent both in the classroom and on the field, where both places are expected to improve their abilities and prepare them for the future.
For many athletic programs, the time spent on the field is as much, or greater,  as the time spent focused on classroom education. Yet, we know that this is the most important time in these young people’s lives when it comes to preparing for their social and economic lives.
It is why there has been such an important push for “Education-Based Athletics,” and the reason that this approach to athletic programs has changed the way that high schools and colleges have addressed youth scholarship. 

Embracing the Future Outside of Sports

We spoke with Ron Nocetti, executive director for CIF – the California Interscholastic Federation. Education-based athletics is one of his core philosophies. His program has over 835,000 student-athletes, and Nocetti believes that it is important that every single one of them benefits educationally from their involvement in sports.

We know sports are an important part of a student’s life. But there has to be that balance and not just academic,” says Nocetti, while discussing the role that sports plays in a young person’s life. ” 24/7, 365… There’s that push for that almighty scholarship, and I think we’re missing a lot by pushing them in that direction nonstop,” when there are so many other things that can be gained from their participation. 
If you ask students why they play sports, most do not respond with “to be a professional athlete” or “to get a scholarship for college.” As Nocetti notes, most reply with “It’s fun.” 
*They’re with their friends.
*They want to be part of something bigger.
*They want to be part of a team.
*They want to be engaged with the school.
Of course, lots of adults hope these children can go on to earn scholarships or play professionally. But, as Nocetti notes, “It’s clear [, after,] talking to these kids that sports are also just plain enjoyable.” For coaches, schools, and educators, “fun” represents a fantastic opportunity to learn.

How Are Schools Improving Education in Athletics

In our interview, which is well worth listening to, Nocetti talks about the different choices that he and other education-based athletic supporters have been advocating for, and what effects that can have on the students engaged in these activities. He includes:
*Utilizing On-Campus Teachers – The connection between on-campus educators and students can be extremely valuable compared to bringing in off-campus coaches.
*Encouraging Sports Specialization – Many students engage in multiple sports, but specialization can reduce injury risk, provide more time for education, and help athletes improve in their chosen sport. 
*Encouraging New Things – That said, students should also be encouraged to try other sports if they feel interested in it, without worrying as much about missing out on improvement in their original sport. Personal exploration is an important part of learning.
Nocetti goes on to say that schools benefit when they learn to be student-focused. There is a downside to letting adults control the destinies of children. Nocetti indicates that when schools really focus on what will benefit the children and what they want, everybody wins. 
“I think schools need to be reminded about what their mission is and what their purpose is,” says Nocetti, “and to find the right adults, to lead their students, and to know when they’re maybe pushing too hard. How about just simply listening to your team?”

With Education-Based Athletics, Students Always Win

In sports, there is a winner and a loser. When the focus is on the game and not necessarily the student, that makes some schools more focused on winning than education. But with an education-based athletics approach, where the goal is to help students thrive, the benefits can be seen considerably in the way students are molded for life after sports.
Education-based athletics is a great approach to Catholic student sports. Listen to the entire interview right here on the CNAA.