Forget Boston, Los Angeles and Dallas. New York City is the best sports city in the country.
As New Yorkers, Stuyvesant students have grown up with access to more major professional sports teams than other high school students all over the country. The Yankees, Mets, Rangers and Knicks all play in the city. The Jets and Giants play in New Jersey, but officially represent New York in the National Football League. The New Jersey Nets have been trying to move to Brooklyn for several years now, and the New York Islanders are right outside the city in Nassau County.
Teachers should use this generation’s knowledge of sports to their advantage. Especially here in New York, integrating sports into the curriculum would get more students comfortable with and involved in the course material.
When baseball first became popular, there were only two ways to follow a game: live or on the radio. Now we can also follow our favorite teams on television, online, or on our cellphones. The technology of the information age has created a generation of young fans with more access to sports than ever before.
The connection between sports and academics is intuitive in a class like physics. Sports are an excellent lens into the world of mechanics. I remember solving many questions that tied baseballs to projectile motion. For example, I was asked to find the reaction time needed for the batter to successfully swing.
These questions can be more specific and engaging though, if contemporary sports examples are used. Rather than saying a pitcher throws the ball, the question could name a real pitcher like Justin Verlander. Any baseball fan knows that Justin Verlander is a power pitcher that consistently throws one of the fastest fastballs in the major leagues. That student would also be able to reason that the reaction time would need to be very short, allowing him or her to estimate an answer before using a formula. In this case, the student is able to translate their knowledge of sports to the problem.
There is potential for meaningful connections in subjects beyond physics as well. Statistics are prevalent throughout sports. Michael Lewis’s Moneyball describes how Billy Beane, general manager of Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics, used statistics to outwit other general managers with larger spending capabilities. Even if the statistics used to analyze baseball were beyond the capabilities of high-schoolers, referencing sports would provide real-world relevancy to the subject.
Anybody who watches the news probably knows that sports players could make an excellent case study for a criminal law class. Illegal substance abuse, perjury, assault, animal cruelty, and weapons charges are just some of the crimes being committed by our favorite athletes. Crimes committed by athletes can be loaded with special circumstances worth studying. Taking steroids is illegal, but if the league tells the player his results will be kept confidential, can it be used as evidence? How could you find an impartial jury for a superstar like Michael Vick?
Negro League Baseball and the ultimate integration of Major League Baseball could illustrate the depths of segregation in the United States. The story of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier is an important moment in sports and American History. Desegregating America’s pastime was a major step in desegregating America. By using sports as an educational tool, teachers can prevent students from getting intimidated by new material. Instead, students will be excited to learn about their favorite moments in sports from a new perspective.