Reimagining School Sports: Large Urban Public High Schools

July 27, 2021  • Sports & Society Program

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Key Points

  • 63% of urban schools offer interscholastic sports.
  • 33% of urban students play sports in high school.
  • 1/3 of freshmen say they don't play because they're not good enough.
  • 35% of seniors say they don't enjoy sports (vs 24% of freshmen).

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/BOKS, 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.

In urban settings, many students arrive in high school behind the curve in knowledge and skills of the sport they play, due in part to a lack of access at younger ages. The funding debate over athletics vs. academics can be intense in cities, and both sides have valid arguments. Many young athletes, especially young men, feel pressure to excel athletically to secure a college scholarship or foster a possible professional career. Ideas in this report can help refresh the high school sports model for urban schools.

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