Written by Hyram Landers Friday, 28 January 2011 00:00
You get what you pay for. How many times have you heard that expression? We have this generalized perception that the more something costs the more it is worth. This is invariably true, but the red herring in this line of thinking is price. Easy come, easy go. That’s another expression that is frequently bandied about.
I remember back when minimum wage was $1.05 an hour. If you worked four or five hours on a weeknight job you did not notice the value of your time as much as you did on a Saturday working eight hours with a lunch break after four. It did not take long to figure out that a $3.00 lunch at the deli pretty much wiped out an entire morning’s take-home pay. You had to make a decision. Was it worth it?
Value, worth, and price are concepts that we spend a lifetime attempting to define. Perhaps Karl Marx said it best when he wrote that the only real value came from human effort, labor, which brings us back to easy come, easy go. If you are not willing to labor and sacrifice to obtain something, then clearly that something is of lesser value to you. (So much for Aesop’s fox and his sour grapes.)
This is especially true in athletics. For those of us in search of a little exercise or companionship, then recreation and intramural activities are just the thing. No particular commitment of time or effort is required, nor is there any commitment necessary to teammates. You can come and go pretty much as you please.
The acknowledged value of teamwork and commitment necessary to the process of achieving lofty goals is universal and timelessly understood. The venue where we are first exposed to these values is typically in the games that we play as youngsters growing up, whether we be barefoot Dominican kids playing baseball on a rubble-strewn vacant lot or a couple of New Hyde Park toddlers being admonished to share the toys and play nicely together.
The ancient Greeks understood the vital connection between a strong intellect and a strong body. They encouraged challenges to both intellectual curiosity and growth as well as to physical strength and prowess. Interscholastic athletics competition falls into this niche, and the valuable lessons that are learned therein serve the individual well throughout his or her life well after the competitive athletic days are past.
Unfortunately in today’s world all too often some parents and some students alike treat interscholastic athletic programs as if they were merely recreational pastimes (and this should come as no surprise). We live in a society where an increasing number of parents treat entire school systems as if they were day care centers. These same parents will take their families on vacation while school is in session, and while there are all sorts of excuses that are given to attempt to justify this behavior (better rates, smaller crowds) the undeniable fact is that for these folks personal pleasure whims take priority over commitment to quality in both education and in extracurricular athletic commitments. The band, orchestra, and chorus directors may have made similar observations. Taxpayers everywhere have a right to be sensitive to such goings on.
In this land, youngsters are entitled to educational and co-educational opportunities, but grades are privileges to be earned, and so too is membership and awards in interscholastic athletic programs. Too bad that some folks apparently did not read the memo or decipher the code, and as the expression goes ‘the acorn didn’t fall far from the tree.’
Nevertheless, there are many fine folks, parents, students, teachers and coaches alike, who do understand genuine effort, commitment to excellence, and personal accountability. Their dedication to these lasting values does go unnoticed although they may think so. Their efforts to nurture the new generation, to instill the essences of teamwork, perseverance, industry, and dedication form a foundation of hope for the older generations that there will be a brighter and a more secure future.
The value of a well-rounded education is not a thing easily quantified in monetary terms. The role of well executed interscholastic athletic competition is integral to the completion of classical education and tomorrow’s leaders. The value of bringing forth new generations that comprehend and act upon commitments to excellence and responsibility, to others as well as to themselves is immeasurable in its presence, and disastrous in its absence. We would do well to bear this in mind during the trying times before us.