HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
April 16, 2007, Herald Journal

Extracurricular‘s “Extras”


“Research continues to show that athletes and fine arts participants have higher grade point averages, miss less school, and have the potential for greater success beyond high school than students who choose not to become involved in school activities,” is a statement that was made by Minnesota State High School League (MSHL) Board of Directors President Jamie Sherwood.

This statement was made in the opening article of the recent MSHL boys’ basketball tournament booklet.

I read this opening article as I, along with many other fans, was waiting for the Lester Prairie boys basketball team to take the court for its game against Cass Lake-Bena.

I certainly agree with Sherwood’s words.

I myself was a coach of a variety of sports and continue to coach at the little league level.

I also participated in a variety of extracurricular activities myself, and each of those activities from declam, to Future Leaders of America, to cross country running taught me something, enhanced my education, and provided me with lifelong skills.

Running cross-country is not a sport that attracts many spectators or recognition for that matter. Many times you are running on a trail with no one around but yourself and most likely the hard breathing of a fellow competitor near you.

I learned and gained many lessons from trotting those miles on hills, courses, roads and trails. I learned that hard work, determination, and self-discipline do pay off and are important skills in whatever endeavor pursued.

Each time I stepped on to a course for a meet or practice, I always thought about how I wanted to feel at the end of the race. I wanted to know that when it was all said and done for the day, that I did the best I could have for the day, and that I didn’t leave any could haves, and should haves, on the course.

Most of the time, I went home with the knowledge that I did what I could for the day, and that was all that I could ask of myself.

When the Bulldogs did take the court for that state quarter final game and the game clock began, there was a powerful display of hard work and determination among all of those players.

In the end, when the clock runs out, there is only one team that gets in the win column. In the case of the Lester Prairie versus Cass Lake-Bena match-up, it was Cass Lake with the win.

In its truest sense, though, all the players and participants involved were true victors. As I heard others say, “The Bulldogs won that game.” They may have had the 43 points in the 46 – 43 end result, but they won in every other sense of the word.

The Bulldogs did play their hearts out, with true desire, determination, hard work and pride. As senior player Jake Prehn put it, in a Minneapolis Star and Tribune article in which Prehn was giving some last minute encouragement to his teammates before they went on the court for the state tournament game, “We’ve been waiting for this boys. Don’t settle.”

And as the Star and Tribune put it, “They didn’t.”

They most certainly didn’t. I don’t think there were any true would haves, should haves or could haves left on the court.

I would believe that although disappointed, the players went home with the knowledge and belief that they played with their hearts and sweat and left no doubts on the court.

When the day was done, they ended as true champions.

So do extracurricular activities teach our children and young adults skills? Most certainly yes. And certainly those extracurricular opportunities include many activities, not just athletics.

Activities, such as drama, declam, band, choir, visual arts, math bowls, spelling bees, problem solving competitions, and the list goes on, certainly lend their way to providing our youngsters with extremely important experiences and life skills.

Joan Bergstrom, author of “School’s Out, Resources for Your Child’s Time,” said in an article on extracurricular activities that “Activities widen a child’s world and allow him (and her) to go into something in-depth and gain self-confidence.”

When I sat anxiously waiting for the Bulldogs to take the court, I also looked around and took in the whole experience. The schools’ mascots, cheerleaders and pep bands all were part of this life experience and all were exhibiting talents and skills to be proud of.

I certainly don’t negate the fact that academics needs to be at the top of our nation’s priority list. We do need to prioritize academics and keep it at the forefront, with the knowledge that extracurricular activities can teach and provide our students with lifelong skills and cherished memories as well.

Activity involvement, while being careful not to overload our children’s time and schedule as well as a family’s time, can truly enhance a child’s educational experience.

Hand-in-hand, our children gain necessary skills in the classroom and beyond the walls.