Are High School Sports Worth the Cost?

A high school basketball team takes a break to huddle. In this article, Macary discusses the budgets behind high school sports. Photo courtesy of:

In many high schools, sports are an integral part of life, sometimes even prioritized above academics. Like every aspect of education, there is a cost to the services that schools provide. In this article, I’ll specifically examine my hometown, Wolcott, CT, and see how its football budget in terms of coaches’ salaries compares to the amount paid for other services to students. What I have found is that while high school sports, including football, certainly have benefits, these benefits can in no way justify the disproportionate amount of money given to them. 

To start I’d like to recognize the undeniable benefits that high school sports provide children. Some of the pros of high school sports cited are higher grade point averages, an increase in college attendance and even higher test scores. There are also obvious physical benefits including a lower chance of obesity and reduced healthcare costs. The list of benefits that sports bring to students socially, physically and academically goes on and on. 

And while there are certainly advantages to high school sports, we must also look at the cost — and by cost, I mean the actual dollar amount. As a case study, I specifically examine my hometown’s school budget. Wolcott is a small town in Connecticut located near Waterbury. In its 2018 to 2022 Union Contract, the total combined salary paid to all high school football coaches was $23,358. Keep in mind that this statistic only includes coaches and doesn’t begin to consider the cost of having an athletic director, a trainer, equipment and so on. If you then look at the stipends given to teachers who run other clubs at the high school, you’d find that if you combine the stipends for the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), Community Service Club, Skills USA, Jazz Band, National Honor Society, Yearbook, Drama, Parliamentarian and Robotics Advisors you’d get a sum of $22,400. These clubs are a combination of community service, academics and various other groups, all of which combined are seemingly less valuable than the football program, based on the money allotted for coaches/stipends.  

Looking at this from an academic standpoint, there are nine science teachers at Wolcott High School. If each makes the median Connecticut public school teacher salary, roughly $60,000, and considering there were 688 Wolcott High School students in the 2020-2021 school year then roughly $785 is spent per student in science teacher’s salaries. Considering that 55 players are listed on the Wolcott High School Football Team roster, this means that roughly $425 is spent per football player on coaches’ salaries. This figure is unreasonably close to that of science teachers, especially given one is an important, core academic subject and the other is an extracurricular activity where high school students chase a ball and tackle each other. It’s important to note that many of these figures are rough considering the data may be projections, national averages, state averages, or not from the exact same year and therefore the reality in Wolcott may differ from the one depicted here. Regardless, this information is enough to paint a clear picture: Football funding is very high compared to a plethora of other meaningful extracurricular activities, and compares very closely to that of a core academic subject. 

Clearly looking at the statistics regarding funding for Wolcott High School football’s team, we get a glimpse of society’s priorities based simply on school budgets. Academics and other substantial extracurricular activities are certainly not given the prominence that they should, while football programs are overfunded, even considering the benefits they may provide. High school sports may have value, but they are overly focused on. Yet despite that fact, Wolcott still managed to end their season 3-7 last year. 


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