Reimagining School Sports: Large Suburban Public High Schools

June 29, 2021  • Sports & Society Program

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Key Points

  • 7 in 20 suburban students specialize in one sport, compared to 1 in 20 at rural schools.
  • 43% of suburban non-athletes say they don't like sports by 9th grade.
  • 41% of all suburban students say they play for a college scholarship.
  • 79% say having fun is why they play.

A Project Play initiative of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program, “Reimagining School Sports” recognizes the essential role that high schools play in preparing young people for life – and the cognitive, educational and health benefits that flow to students whose bodies are in motion. The initiative aims to make quality sport and physical activities accessible to all students by identifying strategies that administrators and other leaders can adopt, aligned with the mission of schools and within the context of a comprehensive education.

The Aspen Institute invited all schools to share their innovations and apply for recognition. A $20,000 award is given to one winner in each of eight school types, made possible by our project partners – Adidas/Reebok, The Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation, and Hospital for Special Surgery. Reports on each school type are being released in 2021, followed by a final report in early 2022 that will make systems-level recommendations that can drive progress across all school types.

With creativity and commitment, large suburban schools have an opportunity to send healthy messages about sports to younger children. Then they can provide many pathways to physical activity, such as intramurals and sport-related clubs, offering as many teams in each interscholastic sport as there is demand for them, and innovative approaches to physical education. Some ideas in this report can help refresh the high school sports model.

Why We’re Reimagining School Sports in America
June 22, 2020 • Tom Farrey