The Value of Sports Teams to a College Education
Teams are valued by corporations, non-profits, town governments, and workers of all types. Even countries stop when a national World Cup team is on TV.
The world of education is no exception. Education includes departments, divisions, and colleges; when a group of professors and administrators work well together it not only shows but students gravitate to that intellectual center. Since there is no “I” in team all participants win at learning!
So how do sports teams specifically add to this equation in education??
Actually, there are many different ways sports teams add to a college education experience. I will point out reasons why team sports are “really” valuable to a college education.
I. The Philosophy
1) Sports teams that work well together are winners. The chemistry makes the whole greater than the parts… The NBA champion always comes from the better “team.” You can see it! And it is not a secret to fans. The classroom that creates that chemistry where all the students participate and contribute to the classroom learning environment comes from teamwork, team plays, and team projects. Learning is like a sport… the more you practice the better you become. Teams lead the way. Students like being part of a team… they are in this “learning thing/stress” together.
2) The good professor reaches out to all students as part of the team. The quick-to-the-effort students will help the slower ones who wait for the others to take the lead. But once a classroom team gels, everybody benefits including the professor. Learning becomes teamwork and, just like in sports, good teamwork leads to winning.
3) If the student participates in the team, he/she will become interested in the result. It is clear to me that interested students are interesting students and are, therefore, better students. This whole “participation learning” comes from sports participation that kids do together right from Pre-K!! Participation ≡ involvement which ≡ learning which is remembered. Students get better grades in courses in which they are interested!
II. The Rationale
Young people like sports teams! Without having to prove it, “sports” is probably the number #1 subject content on the planet.
Nobody goes to a specific college because of its President or a specific Chemistry professor. It started with that Babe Ruth saying, “Nobody pays to see The President”. That is why University of Alabama Football Coach, Nick Saban, is the highest paid educator in Alabama. That is why over 100,000 people go to a Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee, or Penn State football game. That is why Ivy League colleges receive a significant percent of alumni donations from their athletes. That is why DeVry University is proud of being the official college for “Team USA” Olympians.
Students LIKE their athletic teams. Students go to: Duke University for basketball teams; USC for football teams; Rice for baseball teams; Cornell for hockey teams; and Stanford for any sport team (they are all “good”). Recreation, physical exercise, spectator time, and coaches in college can be as valuable as the classroom for learning.
III. Sports Teams Give Specific Benefits to Education
1) Sports teams have become a giant business industry all over the world. Revenue and careers are involved. Colleges can benefit from student recruitment from students who want to attend to learn the sports industry. Sports Management is highly appealing to study, gender neutral, economically rewarding, and global in nature in step with global commerce today!
2) A sports team mentality will be rewarded after education input. The Learner can be creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial, as in sports, to fit the mobile, highly tech-oriented today society.
3) Sports teams reflect society and are competitive. College revenue and tuitions can be improved by participation in (and teaching) the sports team industry! Colleges gain revenue from TV, ticket sales, merchandising, and licensing. Education which reflects today’s society is always interesting to students… it is alive and germane to their lives! Plus competition is a major foundation to the capitalistic structure which guides our country. Education now teaches Coke vs Pepsi; Nike vs Adidas; Apple vs Microsoft; Ford vs General Motors; and so on!! Each company acts like a team… and competes to win!!
4) Studying sports teams is a huge benefit to student retention in education. It keeps students in school. High school graduates apply to colleges with sports (team) study programs and participation. Sports teams are discussed on TV, radio, and newspapers every day/half hour!! No other education subject content combines the interest, teamwork, competition, and careers the way sports teams do. Striving for this enrichment, improvement, and “doing better” is a major foundation for education and keeps students in school!
5) Sports teams can help education through more generous alumni donations. Donating to athletic programs, scholarships, and general college funds make alumni feel “closer” to their college. Alumni enjoy their college sports team events through reconnection with old friends, tailgates, re-living their college experiences and connecting to professors. Alumni get that “academic feeling” when on their college campus. You can’t count or quantify how important these feelings are to alumni. While education is experiencing the advent of long distance learning (for all the right reasons) you cannot underestimate these face-to-face educational experiences. All colleges should strive to please their alumni through “sports team” experiences!
6) Sports Teams help education because they illustrate how to stay relevant and be competitive. Colleges want to be known as “winners”… it is a superior image (note Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary play at Boston College 30 years ago). It is “added value” to education because college teams are discussed in barbershops, because women found equality first in Title IX, because innovation and sports teamwork go hand in hand, and because most athletes get better grades in-season when they learn time management… a very important by-product of education!!
7) Sports Teamwork teaches aspects of education which are critical for career success but are not in a “course”. The importance of work ethic, persistence, determination, teamwork, attitude, and trust all contribute to being a Leader. All for-profit and non-profit businesses have leaders. Team sports teach Leadership far better than most college courses! That is why so many CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies were college team athletes. They trust all problems can be solved together by their team which inspires confidence and passion for gaining team accomplishments.
8) Entrepreneurism thrives through college sports teams. Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour were all created because entrepreneurial athletes wanted to improve team performance. Each now pays millions of dollars to education athletic programs reflecting the economics of our real society. This is active learning! It is the 4th “R”… Reality! Sports teams teach Life and Reality… a wonderful and powerful education tool. We should not separate education from real life!
9) College sports teams need a place to play. College facilities provide that place plus focus areas for recreation, exercise, and healthy competition for regular students. A facility used for the official team can also be beneficial for intramural sports, local commerce, the local environment, local jobs, the local political scene, local economics, and the local townspeople. Facilities can help teaching by being a “today”, exciting, relevant, inspirational, and high-tech environment.
10) Sports teams create a college/education “spirit” that nothing else can create. College teams work hard to “win” and provide a positive “image” for the Educator. This rubs off to all students to think hard, study hard, and work hard. In addition, students need to “blow off steam” and relax (I never fight Mother Nature). It is a pressure valve that enables all students to be proud of their college/university while they study. Rutgers didn’t join The Big Ten to be winners… it wants to become a leader in all aspects of education!! Spirit creates a huge value when students are proud of their education and use it in networking. Sports teams create school pride every day. A school’s reputation more often than not comes from its sports teams!!
To summarize, Sports Teams provide:
• A solid share of the next generation of Leaders for Fortune 500 companies.
• Revenue to enhance the school’s ability to educate its students.
• Classroom tools and tactics to make teaching more interesting to the student.
• The enlightenment of “winning”, “doing your best”, and “improvement/practice” as educational values in learning.
• The educational essence of competition, capitalism, and entrepreneurism… all of which are necessary values in the USA.
• The first examples of person equality and gender neutrality which led to our current society of political correctness.
• Inspiration for better “grades” and time management for most athletes.
• Reality in a competitive society.
• Exercise for better health and wellness.
• An espre de cour that pervades a college/educator’s campus.
Education should be a place of learning with student pride which enhances that learning!! Plus, in this era of globalism, it creates the feeling of the “United Nations” approach… we may be different but we learn together!! Once at Keller I had 19 different countries represented from 23 students in one class. We all helped each other learn… we created a powerful “team” in that learning environment. Sports teams helped that learning because every person in that diverse class benefitted from the “United Nations” team learning approach… a “huge” value to education!!
Presented by Frank Cuzzi
The Complete Sports Educator © 2011
July 28, 2014
M.B.A., Cornell University
Professor, Marketing and Sports Management
President, Corner Kick International, Inc.
Author, Make $$$ in Sports Without Breaking a Sweat!