Tim Emerson

Systems Engineering, FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology

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Does the team sports model help in building the technical workforce we need for the future?

Team sports are a major focus for high schools and colleges. Scholarships help many student athletes attend college and the values of hard work and determination are emphasized.

How does this influence our ability to attract and educate the next generations of scientists and engineers? Does it help, hurt, act as a distraction or is it irrelevant?

I'd like to hear from Parents, Teachers and Coaches. If you are a student or have recently graduated, I would be particularly interested in your thoughts.

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    Mar 20 2014: Hi Tim,
    The sports "model" does not stand alone when influencing participants. because the model is only one aspect of the entire experience. I think it has a lot to do with the teacher/leader/coach, and what s/he encourages with the participants.

    As stated in the comment thread, values like hard work, determination, team cooperation, etc., are important lessons that can be learned with team sports. As you also mention, the most common organized sports (football, basketball, hockey, baseball) exclude some students. I like to see other sports, with more long term gain, included in schools....downhill and x-country skiing, tennis, swimming, volleyball, x-country running, etc. There are very few students who continue with the regular sports after school....only the very talented are chosen to play in college and professionally, while some of these other sports can be part of a person's life as they mature, and they teach many of the same lessons and skills. Also, there is a lot of money dedicated to the common sports, while some of the less common sports in schools cost less, and would include more students.

    My daughter participated in organized sports as a kid (basketball, softball, x-country running, biking, skiing, tennis, etc.) and she is an engineer (EE), team leader/manager with a major computer company now.....apparently she is a pretty good leader/coach:>)
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    Mar 19 2014: I do Raymond. I believe that the money, resources and attention that go toward organized sports (football, basketball, hockey, baseball etc.) do not benefit a significant portion of our students.

    I see that organized sports can teach teamwork and dedication to our student but only if they are part of that select group. This only troubles me because there is no real substitute for kids that don't fit the student athlete mold.
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    Mar 19 2014: models limit thinking
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      Mar 19 2014: I agree with that assertion Scott. I still feel that organized sports dwarf so many other school activities and have the potential to impact students positively and negatively.

      I fear that this focus leaves out significant numbers of students as they try to find their place in the new workforce.
    • Mar 20 2014: Limiting thinking is the whole point of a model. Language is a model. Individual languages are models within that model. Do you propose communicating without any language at all? Gestures are a language. Pictures are a language.
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        Mar 22 2014: well, you're taking the example to the extreme in order to argue the point.

        i'm really only saying that choosing one particular model and then sticking to that come hell or high water is what limits thinking (particular if it's a poorly selected model).

        it's a common practice in education (currently in NZ) to apply a business model to education. there are obvious reasons why this is an idiotic idea but i bet it makes the paperwork and stats juggling appear all neat and tidy.

        and yes, models limit thinking
        • Mar 22 2014: All models limit thinking. It's what they're for. Only an idiot uses only one model. All models are false but some are somewhat useful. I happen to do modeling for a living.
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        Mar 23 2014: you're totally right - and I think that's the exact problem with amalgamating councils and having politicians with that very mindset (one size fits all).

        I'm not casting fault on what you do, Bryan. You obviously have more knowledge in this area than I do. My simplistic way of making my point totally trivialised something that is not trivial at all and that was not my intention. For that, I apologise.

        my frustration stems from our current government treating education as a money-sink that should be run the way you might run a business (and as such, seem to apply models that are not relevant or valid). i also tend to go off onto tangents that are coloured by my frustrations and can lose sight of the crux of the discussion.
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    Mar 28 2014: I am a student, played football for 3 years on varsity, and currently do mixed martial arts.
    Sports, like most frat boy ideas, are good in theory but quickly get out of hand. Sports provide an outlet for aggression and produce stronger more physically attuned members of society. This is good. It probably lowers the level of violence by creating an outlet for that violence and helps our species retain its physical strength as well as our durability. However, in recent years (in the United States) sports have been idolized. A huge percentage of school budget is devoted to sports. Most infectious of these, Football. Football has aided in the destruction of education in the United States. Colleges offer scholarships like never before, because a large chunk of their revenue is derived from having a successful football team. Football players are shuffled through classes, not learning anything. Most do not make it into the NFL and come out of college with a poor education, a degree in liberal arts, and thousands in college loan debt. Football has been destructive in not only our education but our economy. If the same amount of people tuned in to TED talks and national geographic as tuned in to the superbowl, maybe our country wouldn't be in the state that it's in.
    No, I don't think sports, or the way we view sports in this country, contribute anything beneficial to the workforce. If sports were treated as games and not life or death struggles like the parents of this country convince their kids of then maybe it would help. Unfortunately so much importance has been put upon a leisurely pass-time, that people have forgot what school and work is about. Learning and producing. If americans idolized the cooperation and devotion to knowledge, reason, and logic as our founding fathers espoused to, we would quickly see a technical, efficient, moral, and productive workforce.
  • Mar 28 2014: Google the number of rape cases involving sports team members, college hazing cases, NFL players involved in violence off the field.

    When my son played high school soccer, I watched an opponent attempt to intentionally brake my son's leg. One of the things team sports teaches is to win at all costs. That lesson then plays out in the business world in cheating customers, selling risky investments to their clients when the company bet against its own product, it means indebting your client beyond what they can afford in order to get that big bonus. It means trapping the investors in a long-term contract that over time will result in huge losses in order to reap short-term profits and that big bonus while putting investors and employee jobs at risk. It also means creating drugs that have counter indications that have greater risks than the health problem they were designed to solve. It results in rewarding NFL player to do bodily harm an opponent and in domestic violence. It creates a camaraderie perception that they are better than the rest of us and that the rules don't apply to them.

    While the above does not apply to all who are involved in sports, business seeks out these individuals because they follow the game plan to win at all costs.
  • Mar 23 2014: Could you explain what you mean by the team sport model?
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      Mar 25 2014: Fair question Wayne. When I say "Team Sports Model", I mean the major sports (football, basketball, soccer, baseball). These teams often have large budgets and enjoy significant attention (media, parents and students).
      • Mar 26 2014: What you are asking why the academics, especially which lead to good jobs and the possibility to gain reasonable wealth do not get the media and attention of the student body and general public.

        1. Lets be honest, people understand the basics of sports - running, hitting, etc. How many understand the math and science behind, say dna or calculating the eigenvalue of a matrix.
        2. Many universities have cut back on academic scholarships

        Here is something we might be able to do:

        1. There used to be a television show called the college bowl - revise and make the money, say a 10 million dollars per show with the possibility of a college getting over 500 million dollars- now colleges will become interested in being on the show
        2. Create a similar show for high schools with money for the schools
        3. Universities must supply a lot of full scholarships for academics without looking at need. - now high school students and their parents will see a possibility of a free education where today most colleges offer only small grants with a lot of loans.
  • Mar 21 2014: Personally I think it would make more sense for colleges to be more specialized like business is after all, the purpose of college is to prepare kids to enter business. That way they could train them faster and produce more. If I am hiring a manager, technician, doctor or even a lawyer, I could care less if they can run fast or pump weights.
    Now on the other hand if I am looking for someone in the NFL or security guard that is exactly what I want. So I purpose that they specialize according to their own goals. If they want sports then train for sports. If they want intellectuals then train for intellectuals. If they start out in sports and then change their mind they could always change schools. The point is they are focused on exactly what they want to do, and the result will be better athletes and better intellectuals.
    One of the problems in college today is you have muscle bound athletes who do not need to learn mixed with students who do need to learn and because of their strength they get to rule and bully their way, which is not fair to either student. The same problem exists throughout the school system but some schools are now separating kids with behavioral problems and giving them special behavior training until they learn to get along with others.
  • Mar 20 2014: No. Not at all. It would be a TERRIBLE model. The team sports model is vicious, brutal, and destructive. It sets up a "first string" that gets all the glory and ruthless discards anyone who might have a bad stretch. It is all about "victory, no matter what team members must bleed out". It is about serving the reputation of the school or the profits of the team owner. Players are trained animals, not human beings--unless they are stars, then they are indulged and entitled godlings.
  • Mar 20 2014: I do not see sports as a good model for building the technical skill set or problem solving, but it does teach valuable lessons in successful technical team work behaviors.

    I think the team sports model might work for a successful business, but not necessarily a technical workforce.

    I think a model for a good technical workforce might be schools that include industrial arts at all levels with academics, competitions that reward creativity and diligent and structured pursuit of personal curiosity.

    I think a model for a good technical workforce might also be a good breadth of experiences, like scouts or some sort of similar thing that exposes the students to different experiences.

    I think sports will do a lot to teach work ethic, cooperation, and the desire to compete successfully in the market. In this sense, I guess you can argue that a good technical workforce needs these lessons for success and the sports model contributes to a successful technical workforce.
  • Mar 19 2014: I guess so,

    but dont really know how, but the way you are asking the question tells me that
    you seems to have an strong opinion and some ideas about it
    • Mar 31 2014: Sports limit fat gain & build muscle that disappears in a few months without training & body returns to set weight.
      WCB would not permit high risk activity in work places that are largely automated & don't require muscle.
      Should we hold nerd brain olympics that can be done on computers & no one gets hurt or must we continue gladiator games to keep the masses from revolting?
      With high cost of medicare & starving children, should west feed & send 3rd world birth control with $ saved?