Online Master’s in Athletic Administration

The Philosophy of Interscholastic Athletics

Interscholastic athletics is a “tool” that can be used to teach good citizenship. To that end, most schools in the U.S. treat interscholastic athletics as an integral part of educational programs. Athletics provide students with an opportunity to participate in physical activity. This has been shown to promote desirable attitudes towards teamwork and team unity. It also promotes social growth and maturation of the involved individuals, which in many ways prepares the participants for responsibilities of adulthood.

It is therefore very important to develop a clear philosophy about interscholastic athletics. In his book, “Principles and Practices in Interscholastic Athletics: Guidelines for Administrators,” James Harry Humphrey calls on sports administrators and participating institutions, in general, to “maintain a clear philosophy about the field.” The philosophy need not to be static and may change with the needs of the society.

Definition of Terms

Philosophy, according to the Dictionary of Education, refers to a pursuit of wisdom or enlightenment. In everyday life, the term may be used to refer to the fundamental belief or practice of things one believes in. In interscholastic athletics, philosophy is used when referring to a careful systematic intellectual behavior in which we envision athletics not only as a sport but as an integral part of the culture of man.

Another term commonly used by athletic administrators is objective. In educational institutions, the term is defined as “an aim, end view, or purpose of a course.” It defines that which is anticipated as desirable right from the beginning of an activity and which serves to select, regulate, and direct what we do so that the total process is organized, designed and integrated.

Developing an Effective Philosophy

People in interscholastic athletics need something to guide them; they need something to help keep them “on course” and moving in the right direction. Modern sailors use magnetic compasses to determine the direction in which they are going; those in interscholastic athletics need clear philosophies to achieve the same objectives.

The National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators’ Association (NIAAA) has developed a detailed guideline to help administrators form and successfully run school-based athletic activities. NIAAA’s Guide to interscholastic Athletic Administration is a 300-page book with literally everything an administrator would need to develop an effective philosophy.

Overall, an effective interscholastic athletics philosophy needs to address the social, intellectual and emotional aspects of all participants. In order to fully explain the objectives a school’s athletics programs, one must first explain the philosophy and objectives of education as a whole. This consideration becomes even more important when one takes into account that the basic principles guiding the entire educational program must be same ones used in athletics.

Education Stimulates and Guides Growth

The general goal of education is to stimulate and guide the growth of learners to enhance performance in life functions such as vocation, citizenship, and enriched leisure. Educational programs are also developed to further stimulate the learner to reach their highest levels of physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development. These four areas comprise the total personality.

If it is true that the role of an educational program is to ensure development of the total personality, then those in interscholastic athletics have a responsibility to explore these development processes.

A 1999 report by Yin and Ryska attempted to determine the relationship between participation in interscholastic sports and academic performance among middle and high school students—and the findings were quite intriguing. Students who participated in athletic activities had higher self-esteem and scored higher grade points compared to those who did not. Interestingly, the rate of school dropout was also significantly lower in students who participated in interscholastic athletic programs. This research should be an eye opener to those who still doubt the important role of athletic programs on the school-aged child.

4 Key Considerations for an Effective Interscholastic Athletic Program

 Different schools have implemented different philosophy documents that guide their athletic activities. This is very encouraging considering that these philosophies need to take into account so many factors such as spiritual matters which tend to vary from one region to another. Nevertheless, the following 4 points should act as a guide for creating an all-inclusive philosophy.

1. Interscholastic athletics as part of the total education program

An effective interscholastic athletic philosophy must state clearly that interscholastic activities, athletics included, are part of the wider educational program. Educational programs are created to develop the learner and prepare them for future life. Athletics provide opportunities for students to participate in sports activities. These activities play an invaluable role in developing children physically, socially, intellectually, and emotionally.

2. The belief in competition

Sports encourage competition. Competition is beneficial to the highly skilled, the moderately skilled, and the less skilled alike. A desire to win cannot be underestimated, especially when extreme effort is made. Interscholastic athletics instill this desire in participants from a young age. Schools should therefore find ways to encourage their athletes to put genuine effort into all athletic activities.

3. Equal opportunity to participate

It is important for organizers and administrators of school athletic activities to provide everyone with an equal chance to participate in a sport of their choice. Everyone should have the complete freedom to select a sports activity commensurate with their interest and ability. Because of the differences in individual abilities and interests, athletic programs must be broad and comprehensive. This can be achieved through a number of ways one of which is to create many teams on various levels.

4. Sportsmanship is taught

Finally, the philosophy must state clearly that sportsmanship is taught and the objectives of any sports program can only be achieved when sportsmanship is given a consideration. In order to achieve acceptable sportsmanship, one needs to play the game according to the rules. Great success in the game only comes from playing both in the spirit of the rules and in the actual rules.



There is no doubt about the significance of a carefully thought school athletics program. Athletics as a physical sport determines the general health of the country. Moreover, athletics plays a crucial role in the development of children making them “more total” personalities. A clear interscholastic athletic philosophy only helps to develop these young ones to the highest levels possible.



  • Ossining School District – Philosophy of interscholastic athletics
  • Principles and Practices in Interscholastic Athletics: Guidelines for Administrators
  • NIAAA’s Guide to interscholastic Athletic Administration



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