Reimagining School Sports: Private High Schools

August 31, 2021  • Sports & Society Program

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Key Points

  • Only 27% of private school students say they play sports to chase college athletic scholarships (vs. 42% of public school students).
  • 89% say they play sports for the exercise (vs. 77% of public school students).
  • Only 42% of students have taken P.E. in high school.

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.

Many private schools are well-positioned to provide school sports. With smaller student bodies, they can more easily accommodate the demand for roster spots. They also may have considerable access to resources from families and alumni, who can be tapped to underwrite facilities and create teams or programs. Most of the top basketball teams and many of the top football teams in the country are privates – because they can recruit without being restricted by geographic boundaries. But for most private school athletes, the chase for college scholarships is less important than making friends and supporting mental health. Still, private schools are not without challenges, with many students saying they don’t enjoy sports. Developing solutions to ensure all private school students feel welcome and safe to play sports won’t be easy, but many private school administrators are trying, exploring fresh ways to connect students to each other and their interests.

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