Have you ever considered the social and emotional benefits that students experience from extracurricular activities? After-school teams and clubs can instill a feeling of confidence and well-being in students that positively influences other areas of their lives. Research has found that “[not] only do extracurricular activities instill great values like teamwork, responsibility, and a sense of community, they have also been proven to boost school attendance, academic success, and aspirations for continuing education past high school” (Brionez, 2020). In addition, extracurricular activities lead to healthier choices such as avoiding drug use and maintaining a healthy body weight. Because of the benefits that extracurricular activities have for students’ emotional well-being, classroom performance, interpersonal skills, and self-confidence, adults and educators should take the initiative in developing after-school programs that cover a wide range of interests and are accessible and inviting to all members of the learning community.
What is the best way for school leaders to develop a schoolwide plan that encourages student participation in after-school teams and clubs? According to Sean Mims, a middle school history teacher with 14 years of teaching experience, we should allow students to take some ownership in creating the sports teams or clubs that most interest them. Mims points out that our job as sponsors is to be more concerned with the quality of the experience rather than the number of participants, and that all students participating in extracurricular activities deserve to have their accomplishments celebrated, regardless of the size of their chosen activity’s audience (S. Mims, personal communication, February 6, 2020). What follows are some common obstacles and how you can overcome them to help ensure the success of extracurricular activities.
When Some Clubs or Sports Teams Get More Schoolwide Attention Than Others
Often there is an imbalance in the attention certain activities receive—football or basketball, for example—which can lead to an imbalance in students’ participation. To address this imbalance, consider how activities are advertised around the school. Focus on creating excitement for all activities and providing students with the information they need in order to figure out if a club is a good fit for them (S. Mims, personal communication, February 6, 2020).
When Some Extracurricular Activities Feel Exclusive
Team sports often have tryouts, and students can get discouraged when they do not make the team. In these situations, offering an alternative team can give those students the opportunity to showcase their talents. For example, a flag football league could appeal to students who didn’t make the football team. Of course, it doesn’t always have to be a sport. The main thing is to engage with students’ interests and organize activities effectively so that students have the chance to participate in the activities they most enjoy with like-minded peers (S. Mims, personal communication, February 6, 2020).
When There Is a Lack of Transportation After School
Transportation issues can hinder students’ ability to join after-school teams and clubs. One way to accommodate students who lack reliable transportation is to implement a “club day” during school hours. Allot time during the week for students to come together and participate in clubs such as forensic science club, board game club, archery club, or dance club. This allows all students, including those who may not have after-school transportation, to engage with peers who have shared interests, leading to an increased sense of belonging and significance in the school community.
It’s important to think about the social and emotional benefits that extracurricular activities offer to students. Responsive Classroom’s first guiding principle tells us that “Teaching social and emotional skills is as important as teaching academic content,” while the third guiding principle reminds us that “Great cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.” Extracurricular activities can be a gateway to a lifetime of enthusiastic learning. Our job as educators is to provide those students with that invaluable opportunity.
- Brionez, T. (2020, August 25). Research shows after-school programs can help keep your kids out of trouble. KXXV. https://www.kxxv.com/news/national/research-shows-after-school-programs-can-help-keep-your-kids-out-of-trouble