Hard Work, Sports, and Competition

On the radio I heard a player for the college basketball team that won the NCAA tournament say, “This just proves hard work pays off”. Actually, it proves just the opposite. Let’s assume that the 64 teams that entered the tournament all work very hard. The fact that only 1 in 64 win the tournament shows that hard work does not pay off 98% of the time. Actually lets assume that the 350 division 1 basketball teams all worked hard in a season. Hard work pays off 0.3% of the time. Let us continue and assume that these students have practiced playing basketball on hard working high school teams and so only 1 team’s worth of students of the 10,000 high school teams actually won. (hard work has reached a .01% chance of winning).

Sports connected to education is a very tenuous proposition. Arguments are made for sports value as a builder of team work, character, and school spirit. Every year local schools compete in rivalry football games. Every year both teams declare they will win, every year only one team does. What if rival schools had a yearly cooperative event? What if schools took the money from the sports programs put it into arts and the two schools put on a co-production of a show celebrating talent? Some years the show would be bad, other years, when the students worked harder, the show would be better. That is how hard work pays off.

11 Responses to “Hard Work, Sports, and Competition”

  1. Stefan Mayer says:

    How much of winning a huge competition is just plain luck? All the variables align for that specific team. Or maybe its a team with a “Shaq” factor? That one player who can dominate an entire game over all other players.

    It’s okay to celebrate great achievements and great individuals. However, in the U.S. we have spent too much time celebrating individuals and teams. For many of us, it has become an addiction and a distraction.

    Celebrating collaboration is just as important! I’ve heard that collaboration is the “stuff of growth.” I like your idea. Let’s do it.

  2. Colin says:

    I think it is easier to celebrate human achievement when there is competition and victory. I also think more people relate to and can perform physical achievements (a home run, a touchdown) than artistic, academic, or socially beneficial achievements. So it will require a lot of work to shift the culture.

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