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Back You are here: Home Sports Other Professionalism in School Sport- A Stroke of Genius
Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:00

Professionalism in School Sport- A Stroke of Genius

Written by  Jaco Zeeman

It would be imprudent to allow a calendar year of publishing a Sports magazine to pass without having a fresh take on the “Professionalism in High school sports” debate. Is it good or is it bad? Why are people investing so much in sport? What is the effect on the young sportsmen? How do parents cope with the situation? How do schools deal with the situation? We need to ask the one big question: Who is benefitting from this professionalism in school boy sport?

 

My stance on the matter is indeed quite simple. In the same way that an all-round academic education prepares students for careers in the world of work, so too can a professional approach to school sport provide the necessary platform for sportsmen and women to develop their skills optimally in order to pursue a career in the world of sport. Many schools have therefore taken up the mantle of providing their athletes with the best resources and state of the art facilities to hone their passion in a professional manner. It is therefore not outrageous, but rather quite sensible to argue in favour of professionalism in high school sport.

High schools across the country are in direct competition with each other to attract the cream of the sporting crop to their respective schools. Whether we like to admit it or not, our judgment of schools has seldom been based only on the academic performance of a particular school. Largely attributed to media interest, sporting achievements have often taken preference when deciding on a particular high school for a learner with some proven ability in a sporting code. This predicament has sparked up an unofficial “arms race” of resources, facilities, coaches and learners to combat threats of opposing rival schools that are in close proximity.gym 1 2

Many private sponsors, corporate investors and media are seizing the opportunity to spend their social responsibility budgets and at the same time gain the much needed support from the community. A corporate-driven stroke of genius whereby investors get first pick over potential sport stars of the future, providing them with decent exposure through marketing and advertising and as such providing the right breeding ground for future mutually beneficial financial gains. Money is being pumped into schools and consequently better equipment, facilities and better coaches are being employed. Coupled with this is of course, the controversial, acquisition of better players through scholarships and bursaries, often provided by Old boys’ unions and the school itself. Ultimately, whether you agree with it or not, there is no denying that we would see an increase in the standard of play and thus the output of better sportsmen by these institutions in the long run.

Young up-and-coming ‘wannabe’ sport stars are being brought up in a culture where success is directly measurable in accumulated wealth, rather than by extraordinary performances. The primary motivation is no longer to stand at the summit of the sport and be known as the best, but rather to gain financial wealth from your achievements. Many people would argue that vulnerable teenagers are being placed under unnecessary pressure by themselves, their coaches and their parents. Potentially such great demands can cause long term, irreversible damage to these youngsters, however, if one looks at it positively, those who can deal with these pressures and thrive at school level, have indeed shown that they have required the necessary disposition to make a success in a sporting career.

The extent of professionalism in high school sport is amplified by the extensive media coverage in the form of website write-ups, social media, TV-interviews and magazine articles. From having to play in front of huge crowds to having their matches broadcasted live on television, a new dynamic has been bestowed upon the modern school sportsman. It is experiences like these that will produce sporting stars possessing a repertoire that will enable them to comfortably cope with the strenuous demands of professional sport.

Professionalism in school sport has seen coaches and players step up their game in order to gain an advantage over opposing rival schools. Coaches are frequently attending workshops and applying the latest research and technology in order to be one step ahead of the opposition. The direct result of this is completely measurable in terms of performance. Young athletes are also making huge sacrifices during their so-called off season period, also known as “down” or “chill” time and rather choose to work out regularly, following a healthy eating plan and focusing their minds to become the best that they can be in order to pursue their sporting goals.

bmThe increased demands on feeder Primary schools to deliver competent grade 8 pupils with an identified strength in one or two sporting codes have directly resulted in youngsters entering High school with a more focused approach and a better understanding of their final goals in a particular sport. Consequently children ranging from 7-13 years are being encouraged and advised to participate and focus on sports which they excel in, which in return increases the likelihood of realising that sport as a career path. An assembly line of specialsed school sportsmen made available to a host of well-resourced high schools, would mean that ultimately we should indeed be able to produce better sportsman, more frequently.

By forcing aspiring schools to withdraw their effort or come to mutual consent to stop their professional approach would not stop professionalism in high school sport. Instead, private companies will fill this niche in the market by providing specialized training in the form of coaching clinics, personal training and scientific application in areas such as nutrition and mind training. Coaching clinics will, and already have, provided specialised coaching both during the on and off season to condition athletes striving to maintain a competitive edge over their counterparts. Personal training and nutrition in some sporting spheres are already regarded as essential components to make it all the way to the top.

Ultimately the number of spots at the top is limited and only those with ability, discipline and commitment will become professional sportsmen. High schools are simply speeding up the process by filtering guys that do not possess the necessary characteristics needed at the top. Although late developers might initially be overlooked, their uncompromising pursuit of their sporting goals, in a professional environment, would soon be noticed.

I am therefore of the belief that the professional approach that some high schools are taking regarding the practices of their sporting codes and providing their learners with an environment which closely resembles that of the “real world of sport” is a stroke of genius where all parties win. Investors will see the results in their bottom line, high schools will build reputations to attract the cream of the crop and the young sportsmen are given a skill set which will enable them to make a seamless transformation to the world of competitive sport.