As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the education system we have become accustomed to things being cancelled or drastically altered. The obvious example of this is school itself in the form of e-learning or hybrid scheduling, but that is not all. Many school functions have been changed or altered during the pandemic. Food distribution, mental health, and other types of services have all had to adapt or be temporarily suspended. There is one type of school function that has also been impacted but is strangely an afterthought … and that is extracurriculars.
Unlike the aforementioned services, extracurriculars have been completely cancelled in many cases without much protest either. This is somewhat understandable. If you are a district administrator and you are looking down the list of the essential functions of your school, services like education, food, school nurses, and social workers obviously rise to the top. It is hard to justify putting things like basketball or glee club over any of those, but they are important, too.
If you work with students, then it is likely not necessary to convince you of the importance of extracurriculars like sports and clubs. Extracurricular activities have been linked to increased self-esteem to higher achievement to better academic performance. They often teach students like skills, and they help bolster college applications. In some areas, having after school activities is important just to keep students off the streets.
In the case of sports, the importance may be even greater. Thousands of students across the country are in the running for athletic scholarships. The senior and junior years of high school are the most important years for that goal. If you are a rising senior this year you have likely missed a huge part of both those seasons.
Even if you aren’t good enough to make it to the next level of athletics, extracurriculars are far from a minor part of school from the perspective of our students. Many successful people will attest that their extracurricular activities shaped them almost as much as school itself did. This isn’t to say districts should allow extracurriculars to trump safety during a pandemic. The threat of coronavirus is real. However, when we are sitting around the table or logged in on Zoom discussing students and their needs during this time, we should not overlook extracurricular activities because our students aren’t.