On Aug. 1, the Flagler Sheriffs Police Athletic League announced that registration is now open for middle school sports. And over a week ago, First Baptist Christian Academy added eight sports to its athletic program.
The benefits of playing sports are innumerable.
There’s the health and fitness aspect. There’s the sense of fulfillment that comes from working toward a goal. There's the trophies, the awards, the recognition and the list goes on.
It’s no wonder why schools throughout Flagler County are starting to invest in their athletic programs.
For starters, adding middle school sports was on the county’s school board agenda for quite some time. On Aug. 1, the Flagler Sheriffs Police Athletic League tweeted out that registration is now open for middle school sports. And just over a week ago, I wrote a story about how First Baptist Christian Academy — a pre-K through 12th grade school in Bunnell — added eight different sports to its program.
Like I said, the benefits of making sports available to the community’s children are innumerable. It gets them active, it could help them with self-esteem issues and it could instill a sense of school spirit. But not only is it good for the students who play, it’s good for the schools themselves, namely by increasing enrollment.
Adding sports to increase enrollment is a common practice at the college level. In Flagler County, I don’t think increasing enrollment is at the forefront of the schools’ minds when it comes to adding sports, but it’s definitely a positive side effect. At First Baptist — an incredibly tiny school by nature — enrollment increased in the seventh through 12th grade by almost 40%, according to Headmaster Jason Harrison.
According to a report by the National Federation of State High School Associations, sports participation reached an all-time-high of 7,868,900 participants in 2016 — an increase of 61,853 from the previous year. Furthermore, the same report highlighted that participation has increased every year for the last 27 years.
I think it’s pretty clear: Sports are more popular than ever. They give kids the chance to work toward something, to achieve something.
But I also think the community’s seemingly collective work toward providing athletic opportunities is about so much more than giving kids the chance to win at something. It’s so much more than boosting school spirit or moral or constructing a top-flight trophy case, and I think that’s something the schools and their leaders recognize.
It’s about teaching discipline. It’s about bringing people together. And for some, it’s about giving kids opportunities to do something constructive with their lives as opposed to pressing the self-destruct button on their future.