Bettering prep sports culture worthy effort

People enjoy winning, whether it’s the lottery, a poetry competition or checkers. High school athletes are no different. A victory is validation for the hours of practices.

However, a “win-at-all-costs” culture is not what the Indiana High School Athletic Association wants schools to cultivate. In fact, it is taking steps to curb it by rolling out the InSideOut Initiative.

The nonprofit initiative is partnering with the IHSAA Foundation to target high school sports and change a culture that has transformed into one so focused on winning that youth sports has become an $8 billion industry, and pushes children into early sports specialization and one-on-one coaching. That has an emotional and financial impact on families.

InSideOut aims to reclaim sports as an educational tool. The idea is to get schools, coaches and parents focused on what is most important, which is using sports to help teenagers grow and mature as young adults and learn beneficial lessons that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

That’s important, because most high school athletes will not play college sports, let alone reach the professional level. However, high school sports can teach them about teamwork, working toward a goal and overcoming challenges — all of which will help them in life and their careers.

Teenagers are finding their way through life, learning what they like and are good at. High school sports provide an opportunity for something fun and exciting and also motivating.

All of that’s good. But when pushed out of whack, when driven to achieve at all costs dreams of collegiate or professional stardom at the expense of enjoying improvement or camaraderie, that’s problematic.

We applaud the IHSAA for supporting this initiative, and for local high schools such as Columbus North and Columbus East for buying into the initiative’s goals.

High school sports should be a positive, enjoyable experience for teenagers. Embracing the InSideOut Initiative can help accomplish that.

Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.