By Tim Carr
Since our ancient ancestors first started competing for distance and accuracy throwing rocks and the like, sport has continually morphed and changed. We always seem to be seeking new measures of our intrinsic physical and psychological abilities. Participants and observers from the first Olympic Games would be hard pressed to understand the nuances of current Olympic events.
With this innate dynamic in place and the goal of broadening interscholastic competition to as many young people as possible, many state associations have been on the cutting edge of increasing participation by expanding the types of sporting pursuits that have become sanctioned sports. State associations have been adding sports such as bowling, archery, beach volleyball, rodeo, air riflery, chess, Nordic skiing, canoe paddling, and bass fishing. In hundreds of high schools, thousands of students are getting the opportunity to participate in interscholastic competitions representing their schools. In many national studies that determine high school success, research shows that a real and meaningful connection to the academic institution directly correlates to student success. Participation in extracurricular activities encourages a higher attendance rate and a direct access to academic resources. Many of the students who are now participating in these new sports may very well have been alienated and less connected to their schools.
Several states including the Illinois High School Athletic Association (IHSA) and the Kentucky High School Athletic Association have adopted bass fishing as a sanctioned sport. In partnership with professional fishing organizations and suppliers, states are sponsoring high school bass fishing championships. Added benefits to bass fishing as a sporting event are the additional resources that can be leveraged by participating schools. Many schools partner with local bass fishing clubs and organization including organizations such as the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation and The Bass Federation. Many of these organizations volunteer their services to the schools. Services often include volunteer coaching, tackle and supplies, as well as providing boats and captains.
Students not only learn about the dynamics of interscholastic competition with all its life lessons in sportsmanship but also learn about the ethical treatment of wildlife resources, care for the environment, and the value in creating long term and lasting partnerships with local fishermen.
In a March 2008 article in High School Today, Dave Gannaway, the former IHSA administrator, said: “I think it’s popular, but it’s a different type of sport that reaches a different kid,” Gannaway said. “The more activities you can provide the kids, the better off they’re going to be with their high school experience.”
As a former school administrator, I realize the fundamental value in involving as many students as possible in extracurricular events. The added sense of belonging and self-worth that is instilled in students can often mean the difference in successfully completing their secondary academic pursuits or falling to the wayside. Sport is the great equalizer and can propel students to greater heights. Thinking outside of the box when it comes to adding sports to the high school venue can really have a positive effect on countless students who need that bit more of connection to their school and help to provide a sense of mastery for kids who otherwise would not experience a sense of achievement.