Community and children benefit from having cocurricular activities

Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Many people have the misconception that cocurricular activities are about sports only and benefit only those few who participate in sports. What many people, particularly those without children, don't realize is that cocurricular activities also are a benefit to the community and are not necessarily about sports.

A student's involvement in cocurricular activities enriches a student's high school experience and does much to prepare them for life after high school. Besides sports, cocurricular activities include but are not limited to choir, National Honor Society, forensics, student government, band, school clubs and cheerleading. These activities not only are fun for students, they are educational, prepare students for life and are an extension of the education they receive in the classroom. About 70 percent (or more) of the students in many peninsula schools participate in cocurricular activities.

Here are a few case studies that justify the need for cocurricular activities: In 1998, of the students who earned spots on USA Today's All-USA High School Academic First, Second and Third Teams and those who earned honorable mention, 75 percent participated in sports, speech, debate or music.

In September 1995, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services compiled data that clearly shows that adolescents "who spent no time in extracurricular activities are 57 percent more likely to have dropped out of school ... 49 percent more likely to have used drugs; 37 percent more likely to have become teen parents; 35 percent more likely to have smoked cigarettes; and 27 percent more likely to have been arrested than those who spent 1 to 4 hours per week in extracurricular activities."

The American College Testing Service defined "success" as "self-satisfaction and participation in a variety of community activities two years after college." The ACTS credits achievements in school activities as a "predictor of later success" and that success was not necessarily a result of high grades in high school or college or high academic test scores. The College Entrance Examination Board's Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) conducted a similar study and came to the same conclusion. A person's "independent, self-sustained ventures" is what essentially leads to success. "Teens who were active in (their schools) were ... most likely to succeed at their chosen profession and make creative contributions to their community."

A 1995 report titled "The Condition of Education" by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, found that "... participation in extracurricular activities may affect academic performance, attachment to school and social development." It adds that cocurricular activities provide students with an opportunity to learn "... the values of teamwork, a channel for reinforcing skills and the opportunity to apply academic skills in other arenas (outside the classroom) as a part of a well-rounded education."

From my experience in athletics, I would add that young athletes are exposed to and learn about competition; what hard work means and what it can yield in terms of success; why self-discipline is so important in a team effort; the value of fundamental skills; the nurturing of confidence, self-esteem and pride; of not letting your teammates down; pulling for a common cause and many more lessons too long to list.

Let's not forget, too, who benefits when a team comes to town and spends the night in one of our motels and eats at one of our restaurants or buys a snack at one of our stores. Let's not forget who benefits when tournaments and regional competitions attract hundreds of people to our community when the tourist dollars have gone south for the winter.

But most importantly, let's not forget who benefits most from cocurricular activities, the children and young adults of our communities.

Dave Westerman

Soldotna and Cooper Landing

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