Writing a 600-word article would normally be an hour’s work, including editing and a 15-minute lunch break. Writing about myself extends that timeline significantly, so I think I will avoid talking about myself and instead speak on the state of sports at Western Carolina University.
There are students who believe the athletics fee at Western Carolina is too high. These students wish to spend their money on different aspects of the college life, including additional parking lots, alternate food choices or even a second building to rent books from. All of these are legitimate concerns, but the athletics fee is high for a reason.
If you did not know, the athletics fee at Western Carolina is $730. Taking a quick scan of a few other universities, this fee is higher than Appalachian State, NC State and UNC Chapel Hill. At first glance, it seems unreasonable that Western Carolina would have a higher athletics fee than these other, larger universities. It makes sense, however, when you think about the income those universities get from their brand. People across the nation wear Chapel Hill memorabilia. NC State and Appalachian State are renowned in North Carolina. Western Carolina does not have the brand exposure that these schools have; therefore we need to gather more money from our students.
Western Carolina also has students on athletic scholarships. This means that without their respective sport, they would not be in college, or they would not be in a university of the same caliber as Western Carolina. Our football stadium holds 13,000 people. Many of those people visit the concession stands or businesses in Sylva. On any given home game, the economy of not only our university but also the surrounding area booms.
If we cut the funding for sports, then football, baseball, and at least men’s basketball would probably survive unharmed. The less popular sports such as softball, women’s soccer, tennis, golf, cross country and track could face cuts. Depending on how much we cut the price, any of these lower-income sports could be terminated. Think of what would happen if the track team just disbanded one year. If we lost the women’s soccer team, Western Carolina would have no representation of the most popular sport in the world. Imagine the softball field getting paved over for a new parking lot.
If any of this happens, intramural sports would be bloodbaths. Picture assembling a team of friends to casually play soccer against the ex-university women’s soccer team. I have seen them play and I would not want to play against them. If you create a softball team, there is a good chance you would only get ravaged by all-stars of the out baseball and softball teams. Think about going in for a lay-up in a playful game of basketball and getting your shot sent out of the gym by an ex-Division I basketball player.
On a more serious note, the university would attract far fewer students. It is not as if we have Alabama’s football program or UConn’s women’s basketball team, but we are the largest university in the area. We have some sway in recruitment, which brings people from all walks of life to our university and is a great thing. A college of over 10,000 similar students would defeat the entire purpose of a university. You do not come to college to experience the same thing you received back home for free in public education. You come to college to experience the world in a different way and meet different people. Our sports program allows that to happen.
Sports are an integral part of life in the South. From the moment the majority of us could walk, we were encouraged, or forced, to play a sport. For millions of children around the country, sports are a way to connect with other children, develop athletic skills and simply get out of the house. As children grow up, these skills become invaluable.
The social skills you learn from playing sports include teamwork and the ability to express yourself. Without these skills, school would be a challenge and a job would be even worse. Developing athletic skills is important in not only the building of muscles but also the longevity of them as old age inevitably takes ahold of us all.
Possibly the greatest thing sports do is get children out of the house. As our culture turns even more technology-centered, many children do not get the physical activity they need. I have watched the NFL commercials change as I have grown. When I was in elementary school, the slogan was “Get Out and Play an Hour a Day.” Recently on Cartoon Network I saw the same NFL commercial advertising for 20 minutes of physical activity. Not only does that not flow as well as the initial slogan, it is downright disappointing. By pushing for an hour, the NFL was probably hoping for 30-45 minutes. By pushing for 20 minutes, they must be ecstatic when a child gets off the couch. Sports give children a reason to get outside and burn off some energy, and it may be the only physical activity they get.
Sports are important to a child and young adult’s development. They build social skills that come in handy for careers later on. They get people off of the couch. They allow you to interact with people you never would have met if you had not been put on a team together. They bring students to Western Carolina and they bring money to the university.
Whether you are someone who goes to every game and knows the names of the players, someone who just sees games as a place to hang out with friends, or someone who despises the sight of a scoreboard, sports impact this university in a positive way and I promise to show you how in the issues to come.