Doug Robinson: Time to rethink investment in prep sports

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  • Blue and White Provo, UT
    Aug. 8, 2014 4:23 p.m.

    I think where you live has an impact on the benefits of sports. In 1a and 2a, it is almost a rarity to cut anyone because they are so low on numbers. In larger areas I could see the intramural argument since hundreds try out and don't make it. I just think the larger classifications seems to be more about chasing the scholarships than the small towns who play for tradition and to have something to be involved with. Without sports you'd probably have more problems with drugs simply because the kids don't have anything to keep them motivated or they get bored

  • DGA28 Monticello, UT
    Aug. 7, 2014 9:29 p.m.

    Doug focuses on only the schools in the metropolitan areas--basically the Wasatch front. He may be right but there is a whole population of people and schools who don't live on the Wasatch front. Doug, go visit those small 1A and 2A schools and you'll find not a lot of money is spent on athletics and anybody who wants to participate can. You might find they play the game for------ the love of the game. Shocking I know. Nobody gets cut from football and few get cut from basketball. You might might even find a girl who plays volleyball, runs cross country, does drill and cheer, basketball, track, and is a student body officer and plays in the band, works and is an avid reader.

  • VB_n_SoccerMama Layton, 00
    Aug. 7, 2014 3:58 p.m.

    My initial reaction to this was frustration, but I am coming around. I have two athletes participating in high school programs - one in high school and another heading to college with an athletic scholarship paying her tuition. I have a lot of experience with high school and club programs in several different sports.

    In many cases, high schools do not do sports well. Programs are often deficient in supporting athletes (despite supposed massive funding). From uncommitted coaches, to mismatch uniforms, to drama - high school sports are not (typically) a dream. In a club program, I choose the coach. My kids always have a matching uniform. We select the level of competition.

    So why did my kids participate in high school sports? A significant reason - because most elite athletes do. The quality of club programs diminishes during high school and high school is where the competition is at during high school season.

    Would it be so awful to open up high school athletics and create intramural programs available to more athletes? Would more elite athletes stay with their club programs during the high school season? Would that be so bad?

    Sounds like it might be a win-win to me.

  • Gabsterm Springville, UT
    Aug. 7, 2014 12:57 p.m.

    I totally agree.

    I for the past 2 years have been a high school athlete in football. Every day after school we would practice from 4-6 hours leaving most of us beat and in no position to think about doing homework. Then there is the summer and winter weight lifting that is started in June and January respectively. I love playing sports. I never started on varsity. I played for the satisfaction of work and for the chance to play with my friends and to make more friends. High school teams have to work harder and harder to even be considered relevant as a team. It is ridiculous to take them away from their education that is much more important in the long run to all but the small percentage that get scholarships and will move on to the pros. I think as a state and country we need to rethink this.

  • Dennis Harwich, MA
    Aug. 7, 2014 5:16 a.m.

    Mr. Robinson, you'll look back at this article a few years from now and comment to yourself "what was I thinking".
    High School sports is no different today that it's ever been. No, you didn't grow up in the "good ole days".
    What's changed is athletics in the private sector that doesn't have any control over parents, kids, coaches and rules. Point your finger in the right direction next time.

  • eagle Provo, UT
    Aug. 7, 2014 12:03 a.m.

    There are actually a lot of studies that show that athletes do better in school, by significant margins.

  • eagle Provo, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 11:47 p.m.

    Doug, at our high school 50% of our student body participates on a sporting team, nearly 75% on some extracurricular activity. I don't think it's just the elite kids. Also, plenty of sports are no-cut sports. I don't know of too many football programs, your example in the article, actually cut students.

    Just some food for thought. Also, I've seen high school sports literally save hundreds of lives. Yes, maybe participating in a sport saved somebody from using drugs, not driving them to it.

  • adwight AMERICAN FORK, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 11:15 p.m.

    Don't these programs exist already? Jr. Jazz and City Rec Leagues (at least where I live) are fantastic and get a lot of kids involved in playing competitive sports. I wish that city rec leagues would be more widely advertised and pushed, but that infrastructure gives kids the opportunities to compete if they don't make the high school team (and for football its a moot point, there are hardly any teams that have to do cuts in this state). Instead of overhauling the current system there needs to be a push to get high school programs self sufficient.

    The matter of overzealous parents is a different matter. It would be smarter to put the money in an account. The excessive camping just inflates athlete and parent egos. Then they try to take it out on the coaches when their kid doesn't play. I think camps like the All Poly Camp and Mtn. West Elite can balloon kids' and parents' heads into thinking an athlete is better than he/she really is. I wish the camps wouldn't focus so much on which college is there, but on the skills the kids need to learn.

  • kwalken24 West Jordan, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 6:47 p.m.


    There aren't any school boards with the guts to do this because they, for the most part, are intelligent and understand how important sports are in high schools.

  • JSB Sugar City, ID
    Aug. 6, 2014 6:33 p.m.

    If there are benefits to high school athletics, then why aren't more students allowed to participate? The selection process is patently unfair. Only a few gifted athletes or politically or socially connected students get to receive the benefits (inflated ego, fan adoration, publicity, glory, etc). The rest of the students have the great opportunity of cheering on their team!

    I played intramural sports in junior high, junior college and at the University and Utah and loved it. It's time for our high schools drop expensive inter school athletics and switch to intramural athletics in which more students get to participate and it costs less. As long as schools plead poverty and then go ahead and and sponsor expensive and dangerous inter school athletics, I won't vote for a tax increase. If a large school district dropped athletics, it wouldn't be long before others followed because the benefits would become obvious. Are there any school boards with the guts to do this?

  • Tenn12 Orem, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 5:07 p.m.

    You must begin to read through things thoroughly before you comment on topics. Your study never once mentions athletes. It talks about "cool kids." Who are the cool kids? What defines cool? Well, I did the research for you and everyone else. Here it is directly from the study, " To measure coolness, students were asked about their romantic behavior, including how many people they "made out" with. They were asked how many times they had damaged or destroyed property belonging to parents, sneaked into a movie without paying, stolen items from parents or family members, and whether they had used drugs and/or marijuana."
    "They were also asked how important it was for them to be popular with a lot of different kinds of kids, how attractive their closest friends were, and whom they would most likely spend time with on a Saturday night."
    Do you see a mention of sports or athletics? No there isn't. Achieving success in athletics typically translates in to success in life. At my high school, the majority of good athletes are now doing very well with families and good careers.

  • sky2k1 Provo, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 4:44 p.m.

    part 2

    So lets say you try and add more order/ many coaches do you now have to pay to teach the game/supervise/strategize? There goes all that saved money for even less qualified people than we have now.

  • sky2k1 Provo, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 4:44 p.m.

    I not an elite athlete and I did alright having to tryout (never made the basketball team) and struggle to get better at sports (football). This is just off the top of my head, and specific to my high school (Dixie) but I don't think you got cut from football, wrestling, swimming, track, cross country, or those are always options for people to join.

    My question to those who participated in any high school sports: where did you learn/grow the most? Practice, games, camps, outside activities (weight lifting/open gym)? For me, it was camps, practice, outside activities, then games. Most of those get taken away with intramurals. So now you get less opportunities to grow with your teammates and to face those struggles together. You only get organized pickup games with no coaches/proper training. If there are people willing to have practices for intramurals, they are probably the ones who would be on the proposed club teams.


  • sportstats SLC, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 3:29 p.m.

    Hmmm.... using your logic, Doug we should cut out all sports, high school, college even professional. Give everyone a trophy and call it good.
    Your sports job would not exist if we cut it all out. I do not agree at all.
    Sure kids get cut and some do turn to drugs, but not everyone in this world is an athlete lets just admit it.
    High School sports are for more than just the athletes. What about the pep band, cheerleaders, fans and parents. There is more to it than the 12 on the basketball team.

  • HS Sports Guru West Jordan, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 2:24 p.m.

    I have no idea what this article is talking about dealing with "too much tax payers money going into high school sports?" Unless you have actually coached in Utah then you know that the legislative money that you receive every year can barely cover below average practice uniforms for your program and like 3 new basketballs or footballs. So that argument is a joke. This article just proves yet again that our society is a "Participation Trophy" society. Every kid deserves to play and there should be no cuts is why everyone wants handouts from everyone. What has happened to working hard? What has happened to trying to be the best? There is something perfect for all the kids who get cut or don't want to work hard or who wants to have everyone tell them how special they are. It's called JR JAZZ!!!

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 1:23 p.m.


    Google "Cool kids study offers 'revenge' for nerds" (CNN News)

    Cool kids in middle school more likely to have problems as adults, a study found
    They were more likely to be using drugs and alcohol and committing crimes...

    Google "Does Athletic Success Come at the Expense of Academic Success?"...

    "Why Some College Athletes Do Not Succeed - Varsityedge"...

    "Why are nerds more successful after high school"

    "Being Popular in High School Doesn't Make You Rich, After All"

    Some good articles on the topic. I only have 200 words...

    A simple experiment... think of your last high school reunion... what were the jocks doing for jobs 15-20 years after high school (most of mine were unemployed construction workers). Are the Nerds having a hard time finding jobs? Nope, they are the CEOs of the companies the jocks work for.

  • Flashback Kearns, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 12:49 p.m.

    Stop allowing schools to recruit athletes through "open enrollment" and let the kids play where they live. The USHAA should pursue that option. That way the same schools wouldn't be in the championship round every year. If they want to transfer, do what college does and make them sit out a year.

  • Really??? Kearns, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 12:06 p.m.

    @2 bits,

    Could you post any studies that show that students who focus on high school sports wind up less successful than their counterparts? I would be interested in seeing how they collected the data and drew their conclusions because I have heard that such stories are actually the exception and not the rule.

    As I look at the top athletes from my high school experience, most have great careers, are wonderful parents, and still contribute a lot of our communities.

  • Really??? Kearns, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 11:57 a.m.

    I agree with UtahBlueDevil; isn't there room for both types of sports programs in school? Think of it this way--a child gets cut from the basketball team. Not all is lost, that child can participate in the intramural program to improve skills and remain healthy. The intramural program could provide incentives for students to keep improving for that next time there are team tryouts.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 11:28 a.m.

    I think the worshiping of sports in general (especially Prep sports) is out of balance.

    I know boys who's parents pressure them to give up on getting their Eagle so they can be on an elite team, or attend all the sports camps, practices and games needed to qualify for an elite pre-high-school team.

    I try to explain that the citizenship and leadership skills they learn in scouts will benefit every boy (100% guaranteed). Sports are good (for what you learn from maximizing your potential and from working as a team). But less than 10% will play that sport in college. And less than 1% will make it a profession.

    And yet... they are willing to trade the 100% guarantee of learning qualities that will benefit them the rest of their life... for the 1% chance of being a professional athlete.

    It's been proven that most people who focus on sports in high school (instead of academics) end up badly for them in the long run (in their attempts to find a career).

    I say focus on school (not sports) and you will be better off (in the long run).

  • 65TossPowerTrap Salmon, ID
    Aug. 6, 2014 11:24 a.m.

    Intramural sports is not going to work for the competitive athlete. The kid that is blessed with abundant athletic ability is not going to play on the same basketball team as the Chess Club President. That just isn't going to work. Everybody is different. Just because the current system doesn't work for some doesn't mean it should be scrapped. This will do nothing but chase the talented athletes away from high school (intramural) sports to club sports. The club sport cost will keep talented middle-class athletes from playing in competitive sports.

  • kimnprovo Orem, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 11:21 a.m.

    I agree with UtahBlueDevil, why does it have to be one or the other? I believe there will be and perhaps should always be a handful of kids who are very athletically gifted and should compete at higher levels. There are; however, many children who just need the benefits that team and individual sports provide. Physical education in the Alpine SD, at least, is a joke. My kids experienced the same as another poster, a teacher handing the kids a ball and walking back to his/her office.

    I grew up in another state where there were both intramural and competitive sports starting in middle school. I participated in both and received different benefits from each. My success in playing for a championship volleyball team helped me understand what real hard work and dedication can bring. My playing of intramural basketball helped me make friends and learn to just have fun.

    I would love to see intramural sports included along with more female competitive sports. I want to see field hockey and lacrosse for girls and would love to see rugby in general. By the way, I currently invest in sports and arts, I would continue.

  • BYU blue through and through OREM, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 11:08 a.m.

    This article makes way too much sense to ever actually be adopted. As one of those in my day who, as Doug said, had no illusions about my abilities but just wanted to be part of something, a good intramural program would have been incredibly useful. This is the kind of sea change everybody would benefit from - elite athletes and mere participants alike.

  • Rural sport fan DUCHESNE, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 10:56 a.m.

    If only we had a program to let kids do athletic things in a fun and less competitive atmosphere.

    Oh wait, we do. Its called PE.

    As a small school fan, I have to wonder if it isn't just the large schools that have the problem posed by the author. No one in my area gets cut. Most teams are in the halls begging kids to play. And I know of kids that benefitted from being on a team that didn't tolerate drugs, alcohol or tobacco use, while I know of no kids that got cut and fell off the deep end.

    Speaking of which, where is the parent in this scenario? Shouldn't mom and dad be taking care of Jeff and guiding him to find a useful purpose for his free time? Maybe he could get a job? Take piano lessons? Work on his Eagle Scout stuff? Learn to code?

    Too bad there's no such thing as a pick up game anymore.

  • Speed_Altitude Centerville, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 9:51 a.m.

    I know first hand that a lot majority of money that Doug talked about going into high school sports is paid by the participants and their families through direct donation or fund raising. I would say that men's football and basketball, for the most part, pay for themselves and help facilitate other sports programs as well. I think a better question would be to ask parents if they would be better off taking those tens of thousands of dollars spent on lessons, training, travel, tournaments, games, etc. chasing a scholarship and instead invest it for their kids college education. I'll have to admit that watching money grow in an account is not as exciting as watching a competitive athletic contest but . . . .

  • 65TossPowerTrap Salmon, ID
    Aug. 6, 2014 9:19 a.m.

    Big-time overreaction. High school sports has its warts and doesn't work for everybody, but to abandon it in favor of intramural sports is lame.

  • Red San Antonia, TX
    Aug. 6, 2014 9:12 a.m.

    We need more kids participating in sports of all kinds. We can't just focus on football, basketball, and baseball.

    Thank goodness we now have Lacrosse and mountain biking coming on strong.

    We need to get as many people involved as possible. When I grew up in Orem everyone played baseball, but now the whole sport has been hijacked by the super leagues and if you don't play 100 games a year then there is no room for you.

    extreme specialization is hurting sports for everyone as those resources only become available for the fanatics.

    Also, a Great coach is becoming very rare. There are way too many ego maniac coaches who don't care about the kids as much as their winning record and too often just their own kid.

    Fanatical parents who have no sportsmanship are also the problem. Everyone needs to take a step back and let the kids play and learn to have fun again.

  • Confused Sandy, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 8:59 a.m.

    GZE... Not sure you played sports in Utah.... YES they do cut kids from teams in Utah High Schools.

  • 81Ute Central, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 8:07 a.m.

    Yep, way too much money goes into high school sports. An overhaul would be a good thing. The issue runs far deeper in the smaller communities than that in the cities (in my experience). Just look at the football 3A vs 3AA issue. Do really we need to divide the schools urban vs rural just so that Podunk High can win a championship again?

    One issue that I wish Mr. Robinson had addressed was regarding the problems that can come from having much success as an athlete (esp. high school and the adolescent mind). The problems from that are just as severe as those stemming from failure.

    I had my university degree paid for by an athletic department as are/have 2 of my 4 children. I say this not to brag but to shoot down the 'sour grapes' crowd.

  • Just a thought... Syracuse, UT
    Aug. 6, 2014 7:34 a.m.

    I believe that just as many people like "Jeff" who turn their experience into a pity party and use it as an excuse to fail in other area, there are people like "Michael Jordan" who use it as an excuse to work hard and develop into a better player, harder worker, and higher achiever.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    Aug. 6, 2014 6:04 a.m.

    BTW.... why is an intramural model and competitive sports mutually exclusive of each other? They do it in colleges, why can't it be done in high schools? I am not sure why we need to pick one over the other.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    Aug. 6, 2014 6:03 a.m.

    The converse story is also true. Perhaps some kids turn to drugs and gangs so that they have a "club" to belong to.... but at least in this area there are also a lot of kids who show up to school every day because of the promise that if they stay eligible, they can be on a sports team. As wrong minded, against the odds as it may seem, their are significant number of kids whose parents make sure they show up to school so that they can play a sport.... and if they work hard... and with some luck, will have a chance at a college education at some school.

    If football, baseball, soccer, LaCrosse, you name the sport, is what it takes to keep little Johnny showing up to school everyday and makes sure he does well enough to be eligible, that is not a bad thing. Maybe it is just 100 football players, and another 12 basketball, and 20 baseball, and 30 soccer, and what ever wrestlers... add it up... and you have a good number of kids with an academic gun to their head to remain eligible. Intramural sports will not do that.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 5, 2014 10:42 p.m.

    "Wouldn’t it be better if we put resources into programs that benefit the many, not the few? Wouldn’t an intramural program be vastly superior to the present system? "

    Yes! Absolutely! I came up through the Salt Lake City school system. I attended Horace Mann Jr High (what a hole) and West High School. I took a P.E. class each of those six years. During that time I received exactly zero ZERO minutes of instruction in any particular sport. The gym teacher (coach at West) showed up, called the role, handed somebody a ball of some sort and disappeared. I really could have used some instruction in some sport. The present system is for the elite and everybody else can go hang. It's not right.

    Oh, and the fact that I'm leftist shouldn't reflect negatively on my view.

  • justafan Gunnison, Utah
    Aug. 5, 2014 10:09 p.m.

    Move to Europe and get your participation ribbon

  • Deliberate Southern, UT
    Aug. 5, 2014 9:32 p.m.

    The benefit of high school sports is learning how to discipline oneself to learn a particular skill. For most, the skills learned have no lasting value but the discipline learned in the process transfers to most areas of life. Those who wish to be successful in life need to learn how to sacrifice for a distant goal and maintain consistent effort, focus and discipline in order to reach that goal. High school sports teach these principles and success in high school sports generally relates to these factors. Motivation is provided by the desire to succeed and resistance is provided through competition. Intramural sports while fun, do not provide sufficient motivation or resistance to develop such habits. Smaller schools benefit disproportionately as most kids who want to participate have an opportunity in many sports. The problem is the larger schools where there are limited slots and too many students. A much better solution would be smaller neighborhood schools. The costs of building and infrastructure are higher but so are the benefits. Eliminating high school athletics does not solve the problem it only further limits those who can receive the benefits which research shows is significant.

    Aug. 5, 2014 9:25 p.m.

    "Jeff" didn't play high school football in Utah. Utah high schools do not cut boys from the football team.

  • E Sam Provo, UT
    Aug. 5, 2014 9:19 p.m.

    Absolutely! Shout it from the rooftops! And an intramural model would be good for the physical well-being for a lot more kids.

  • Light and Liberty St. George/Washington, UT
    Aug. 5, 2014 9:18 p.m.

    He didn't challenge the importance of being the best at something. He was challenging the money that is spent on high school sports. Let's get real here. The average height of an NBA player is 6'6". Society, unfortunately, has spoken loud and clear about what it values and parents buy into it hook, line, and sinker! How about giving these kids a little reality check and direction by not stressing making a team to the point that everything outside of it is viewed as worthless. The NBA I am sure appreciates the money and emphasis, but a society that values putting a ball into a hoop more than becoming a doctor able to cure cancer has a problem! An intramural program that allowed all to compete would not hinder any kid from moving beyond high school, but certainly would give all kids a chance to have some fun. It is a game, pure and simple, despite those who think otherwise! If you don't think it is serious business, just watch a parent who has spent hundreds and thousands of dollars sending his kid to camps all of a sudden realizes his kid didn't make the team!

  • Y Ask Y Provo, UT
    Aug. 5, 2014 8:50 p.m.

    I have to agree with Doug on this one. As a high school and college athlete, I loved participating in sports. The key was participating. Being involved. We won a lot, but that wasn't central to the satisfaction and fulfillment. It was the teamwork, and discipline, and sportsmanship. It was the relationships, and learning hard work, and the excitement of putting yourself on the line.

    If there is anything educational and instructive and valuable about high school athletics (and I think there is), it should be shared as broadly as possible, not restricted to a very few.

    Colleges will still harvest the cream of the crop for their "amateur" athletics programs, but many more should be given the opportunity to benefit from organized competitive sports programs.

    And maybe doing such a thing could improve overall health and fitness!

  • Ricardo Carvalho Provo, UT
    Aug. 5, 2014 8:46 p.m.

    Sorry Mr. Spring but I cannot agree. As a society, we have chosen to reward a relative few with a disproportionate amount of taxpayer money. I like the idea of seeing kids succeed but we need to do so in a greater variety of fields. Let the clubs pick up the tab as they do in Europe so that we can also reward excellence in science, the arts, public speaking, activism, and so forth.

    By the way, I lettered for four years in high school and also served as a head coach at the college level.

  • higv Dietrich, ID
    Aug. 5, 2014 8:12 p.m.

    I don't think you can move to a new school to play ball, In Idaho anyway if you don't move with your parents than you have to sit out a year before you play sports.

  • lefty200 kaysville, UT
    Aug. 5, 2014 7:56 p.m.

    I've got to hand it to you Doug, for taking on a subject that could meet lots of resentment. However, that being said, I'm going to admit, that you have hit the nail right on the head. Team sports in high schools have gotten completely out of hand. Look at all the trouble the Utah High schools had last year with school allowing transfers, East High leading the pack with all the new kids they let in. UHSAA banned them, then backed off and let them back into the playoffs, other schools did the same thing. While I completely agree with you Doug, I wonder if we haven't dug too deep a hole to change anything for the good. I feel that it's only going to get worse. Way to speak up Doug, you've got my support.!!

  • John Charity Spring Back Home in Davis County, UT
    Aug. 5, 2014 7:52 p.m.

    This is a shockingly left-wing article from Robinson. What has happened to the champion of athletics that we used to know?

    True athletics is not about passing out participation medals to everyone. It is about rewarding the best for working hard to achieve excellence.

    The left-wing egalitarian view has permeated too much of the public education system already. It has resulted in lowering the curriculum and the expectations to the level of the lowest common denominator so that all achieve the same result and none feel bad.

    Our society cannot afford an entire generation of mediocrity. Robinson the runner should know as well as anyone the adage of Paul torun to win. That is why hhigh school athletics are so important. If these students are to become successful adults, they must learn how to run to win.

  • Fitness Freak Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 5, 2014 7:39 p.m.


    I couldn't agree more. Most parents who don't have kids playing sports probably don't understand the amount of $$$ that parents spend - besides the coaches salaries. For football its' probably in the hundreds (if not thousands)of dollars every season. Then parents have the (almost)mandatory "football/basketball camps".

    Then......we have the UHSSA who make the rules "allowing" students to transfer across town in order to form a "winning" state championship team.

    The whole thing has degraded to the point where the whole high school athletic program is a bad joke!