COLUMN: High school sports, performing arts can play role in healing our nation

Never before has high school sports and performing arts been so poised to make a difference in our nation.

Two days removed from remembering the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to combat racism in the U.S., and on the very day of the inauguration of the 46th president of our country, we are reminded of the work ahead and the ways our education-based programs can play a role in healing.

Respect for one another, appreciation for each person’s background and a willingness to work together for the good of everyone are goals that should be equally shared by our nation’s leaders and everyone involved in the greatest education programs in our country — high school sports and performing arts.

The 51 state high school associations that are members of the NFHS, and the 19,500-plus high schools that are a part of these associations have been working tirelessly to offer sports and performing arts this year amid the pandemic.

Our nation’s youth want — and need — these programs. They want to be a part of a team, working together to achieve success. It is in these education-based programs where high school students learn sportsmanship and citizenship.

While one to three percent of those participating in high school sports will play at the next levels, that is not the emphasis of these programs. Instead, participants learn how to be accountable, how to win — and lose — graciously, and how to be leaders who have a solid concept of right and wrong as citizens of our country.

Communities throughout our nation desperately need high school sports and performing arts. Sometimes, we do not realize the value of everyday experiences until they are gone. As we work through the overall healing process from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as from social and political unrest that was ever present in 2020, we are looking ahead anxiously to the day that gyms and stadiums and auditoriums will be packed again with fans supporting their local high school teams.

Perhaps even bordering on a Pollyanna mindset, we believe high school sports and performing arts can pump renewed life into communities as the vaccine distribution intensifies this year and the pandemic diminishes. In cities and towns from 100 people to 100,000, high school sports, just as they were 50 years ago, are a vital part of the heartbeat of these communities.

From the 1,605 schools in California and the 1,485 schools in Texas, to the 57 schools in Rhode Island and 72 schools in Wyoming — and all sizes in between — the 12 million-plus participants in high school sports and performing arts don’t think about owning their talent, which is becoming a part of the college landscape. Instead, they think about offering their talent to be part of a team effort.

In many of those cities and towns across the country, local radio stations remain some of the most effective advocates of high school sports and performing arts. And the NFHS, along with many of our state associations and the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, are once again working with radio stations to air messages about the values of these education-based programs.

Since 2012, many radio stations have been involved in this effort and have aired 30- and 60-second spots on the values of high school sports — for free. Managers of radio stations in cities and towns of all sizes have consistently aired these commercials because they believe in the content. They believe in promoting high school sports and performing arts. They believe high school sports resonates with residents in their communities.

Today, six digital public-service announcements on the “Values of High School Sports,” “Participation in Sports and Performing Arts,” “Equality and Inclusion,” “Mental Health” and “Sportsmanship” are being distributed to state associations and radio stations nationwide. Last year, the value of the PSAs aired was $7.6 million, and in the nine years of the program, the amount is $59.8 million.

WRLE Radio in Dunnellon, Florida, said, “We love being supportive of this cause,” and Network Indiana Emmis Broadcasting in Indianapolis, Indiana, said, “The PSAs promoting high school sports have been warmly received by both listeners and affiliate partners.”

We offer a huge “thank you” to these stations and hundreds of others for promoting these programs in their local communities.

While high school activity programs provide the setting, we encourage your support for the millions of student participants as they progress through the steps of healing this year. The pandemic may cause us to reassess how we conduct business in some settings going forward, but one thing that must not change is fans in the stands, gyms and auditoriums in communities nationwide, supporting high school students in education-based sports and performing arts.

 

Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff is starting her third year as executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations in Indianapolis, Indiana.

 

Berrien County

Michigan expanding access to safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan 591,753 cases, 15,563 deaths

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Police Log: Feb. 24-28

Dowagiac

Dowagiac man arrested on meth charges

Business

Niles restaurants see regulars return as restrictions relax

Berrien County

United Way invites community to sponsor children to receive free books

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan 590,217 cases, 15,558 deaths

Berrien County

Niles Township Parks Board seeks public input at Wednesday hearing

Buchanan

Niles Scream Park seeks new nonprofit organizations

Berrien County

Updated MDHHS orders expand restaurant capacity, increase capacity limits, allow for expanded visitation at residential care facilities

News

Niles Township approves state-outlined poverty guidelines, purchases tractor attachment for trails, considers firefighter applicants

Cass County

Lewis Cass ISD narrows superintendent search to two candidates

Dowagiac

Dowagiac art students complete Lego murals

News

Former surgeon given 10 to 40 years for criminal sexual conduct

Breaking News

UPDATE: Two teenagers injured in shooting at Niles hotel

Dowagiac

SMC unveils scholarship guarantee

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan 589,150 cases, 15,534 deaths

Business

Applications now available for Dowagiac’s Summer in the City Festival

Breaking News

Two shot, wounded at Niles hotel

Berrien County

Michigan Works! announces healthcare hiring events

News

Niles Police Log: Feb. 18-25

Edwardsburg

Ontwa Township Edwardsburg Police Log: Feb. 15-22

Dowagiac

SMC graduate experiences Super Bowl

Dowagiac

Dowagiac women aim to create change through local government