After watching 400-plus high school wrestlers, coaches, parents, fans and students come together Friday and Saturday to host and enjoy an overwhelmingly successful Payson Invitational tournament, it was obvious to this old coach, his wife and others what athletics mean in the lives of teenagers.
But the glee turned to gloom on Sunday morning as we sorted through a Valley area newspaper reading how our neighbors and friends in Eagar and Springerville are dismantling the Round Valley High School sports programs for the upcoming semester and next school year.
The school board cut sports as a budget cost saving move.
I don’t pretend to know about the financial situation in the Round Valley school district, but there must be a way for the school and community to fund the sports that have long played a crucial role in the ment of young people in the two neighboring towns.
To my way of thinking, high school sports are one of the best educational bargains around, costing usually about only 3 percent of the overall budget.
Also, football is a cash cow in prep sports, earning considerable funds from gate receipts especially in Round Valley where the ensphere is the only high school domed stadium in the United States.
Those of us who have grown up and coached in Arizona understand well that football is a way of life in Eagar and Springerville.
In the Elks’ glory days of the late 1970s and early ’80s, coach Tot Workman led RV to some of the school’s most successful seasons.
And almost everywhere the team went, townspeople followed to lend their unbridled support.
As a coach at an opposing school, I remember marveling at the loyalty the fans showed the players, coaches, program and each other.
The Elks also produced some of the state’s finest football players in Tim Landers (Arizona State University), Mark Gastineau (Oklahoma; New York Jets), Dustin Johnson (BYU; Jets, Seattle Seahawks), Jason Davis (Southwest Missouri; Oakland Raiders), Buster Madriaga (St. Louis Rams) and Mike Keim (BYU; New Orleans Saints).
A recent study done for the National Federal of State High School Associations reveals sports activities play a huge role in the successful development of young people by supporting the academic mission of schools.
The study showed student athletes tend to have higher grade point averages, better attendance records, fewer dropouts and fewer discipline problems than non-participating students.
The study also revealed that through participation, students learn teamwork, sportsmanship, rewards of hard work, self-discipline, self-confidence and develop skills to handle competitive situations.
Participation in high school extracurricular activities, the study revealed, is often a predictor of success later in life.
By a 2-to-1 ratio, boys who participate in high school sports do better in school than those who do not. Student athletes drop out at lower rates and have a better chance to get through college, studies show.
A 1987 study of individuals at the executive vice president level or above in 75 Fortune 500 companies indicated 95 percent of the executives had participated in sports during high school.
Similar studies done by the National Federation of State High School Associations, the Colorado High School Activities Association, the Colorado Department of Education and the New Mexico Activities Association have yielded similar results showing that extracurricular participation positively affects the attitudes and behaviors of high school students.
Knowing what we do about the value of athletics in young people’s lives, it’s tough to believe those in Eagar-Springerville will allow their time honored programs to fall by the wayside.
It’s simply not the Elk way.