Ball or Bands: Football vs Music as an Educational and Community Investment by John Gerdy

Extracurricular Activities for a Healthy Student Body

  • It’s seems obvious that football should promote health and fitness. Football players do engage in a good deal of aerobic activity and get stronger due to on and off field activity, which for many is a year round activity. Players are often encouraged to put on weight, and as a result, almost half of the players are over weight, and roughly 10% are obese. After they stop playing and working out daily, the added muscle often is replaced with fat. In addition to the many orthopedic injuries, hardly a day goes by when we don’t see additional research regarding the very real of danger of concussions. The culture also promotes playing hurt, which results in many players trying to hide concussions from their coaches. This is true for sports in general. Research shows that countless sub concussive hits have an additive negative effect. One report indicates that concussion rates are more frequent among high school athletes. Few players avoid injuries that won’t have a life-long impact. This begs the question: should an institution of any kind be investing so heavily in an enterprise that is so dangerous and damaging to the brain?
  • While people generally view music as a sedentary experience, research shows that music can have a profound impact on health and well-being from both a physical, mental, and emotional standpoint. It can have a therapeutic effect on participants. I find is a great way to reduce stress as when I’m singing or playing the rest of the world goes away. Nationally only about 20% of students participate in any school sport. The question we should be asking therefore is: what is the most effective and cost-efficient way in which our schools can promote good health and physical fitness habits in our nation’s youth? Clearly we should invest more resources in broad-based, participatory, intramurals, clubs, and physical education rather than the current programs that cater to a few elite athletes. Why do we have to be the only nation where the responsibility for developing elite athletes rests on the educational institutions?

Coda

  • Football grew in popularity when industry needed a loyal, dependable, and fit workforce. At that time the military had the same needs. Since then industry and the military has gone high tech and has a greater need for creativity, innovation, and problem solving. This makes football a poor educational fit even if it weren’t only for elite male athletes, and didn’t come with serious injury risk. Even Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy feels that “football is wonderful, but the price tag has gotten too high.” The downward trend for football has already arrived. Look for leagues and schools to have a harder time attracting players and paying for liability insurance.
  • Schools should use some of the money they save on football to provide a genuine fitness and wellness program for all students, and an expansion of these resources. In addition to scoring poorly on international tests, US students also score poorly in the area of physical fitness. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t just happen. Music should also be considered as part of the academic core required for all, not just the elite musicians. The arts are refreshingly different in the way they are taught and learned and must be expanded rather than curtailed. Schools will survive without football, and communities that are determined to keep it going can turn to the European club approach for sponsorship. If you agree with John, get some copies of this book for your board of education, and support them if they have to make some difficult but necessary decisions about football and music.
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