Success in College Can Start on the Ballfield

On the day that the Giants were feted for their Super Bowl victory with a parade up Broadway in Lower Manhattan, most of my students were still in class. This, even though some estimates said that about 20,000 New York City public school students had skipped school to revel in the cheering and the confetti of the day.

But while attendance at Pathways in Technology Early College High School on the day of the parade was 98.1 percent, that did not mean our students did not share in the pride over the Giants' win, or enthusiasm about sports in general. In fact, that day, many students and staff reminded me of a petition the students had started to bring football to our Paul Robeson Campus.

DESCRIPTIONRachel Elkind Rashid F. Davis

We cannot underestimate the tremendous influence that sports and physical education have on American culture. The Giants' win made me think of how important sports can be to helping build community.

I am sure that many young athletes the world over, and specifically football players at Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, sat mesmerized and began dreaming of one day having their opportunity to become Super Bowl champions or professional athletes.

Lincoln's Railsplitters became the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) Football Champions for 2011-2012 with their win in December over Erasmus Hall (which is now actually several smaller schools) at Yankee Stadium.

I am not suggesting that sports are the only way to have students connect, but there are some important lessons in sports that I am sure we can learn and transfer to other areas of the school.

For example, physical education classes are great opportunities to help lay the foundation for some soft skills (teamwork, discipline, group dynamics, for example) that are needed to help students become both college and career ready and fight teenage obesity.

New York State knows the importance of physical education because it requires that in four years of high school -- or eight semesters -- students take seven semester-long physical education courses and one health class.

As we continue talks about college and career readiness, I am eager to focus on how out-of-school time, specifically as it relates to sports and physical education, can help students be successful.

The PSAL has several sports -- baseball, basketball, bowling, double-dutch, football, gymnastics, lacrosse, softball, swimming, tennis, track, volleyball and wrestling to name a few.

Many athletes have a grueling schedule juggling practices, games and tournaments, and, in fact, in many cases some student athletes go weeks straight without a day off.

But there is little data to track exactly how sports or extracurricular activities influence academics, at least in New York schools.

Where is the city’s data as it relates to PSAL? What do we know about how successful our student athletes are in college? Are some campuses graduating more students because of the athletic programs?

How can coaches teach instructional leaders to leverage more from the people they lead? Are there programs that help athletic coaches become instructional coaches?

We would probably find that students who are connected to a school -- because they play for the home team or even just root for it -- have a better chance of graduating.