“Turn up the lights in here baby/extra bright, I want y’all to see this/turn up the lights in here, baby/you know what I need/want you to see everything/Want you to see all of the lights” ~Kanye West f. Rihanna “All of the Lights”
This is my second year living back home in rural North Carolina, and many times I find myself amazed at rural values. Quite simply, there’s nothing like small-town values. I enjoy knowing students and their families (cousins, sisters, brothers, aunties, grandma and grandpa, etc.) and I find there’s a certain comfort in knowing that building those relationships with students and their families can have extremely positive benefits.
However, when you consider rural life and small town values, sports are a HUGE part of that, which is something that I underestimated as an “outsider” moving in. On any given Friday night during the fall or winter, you can find gyms or stadiums packed with students, family, and community members; cheering their team on to victory. In small towns, every game is the big game- and there are a few that are bigger than others, but with every game it’s about pride in your school, your team, and your town. Oftentimes these games are for bragging rights among family members, fellow church members, and neighborhoods.
But what didn’t really strike me until I sat at the game last night and watched many of my seniors play against our “cross the field” rivals (literally on the other side of our football field and a few other fields), that for many of them, this MAY just be as good as it gets, when considering athletics.
While we fully anticipate,and are well on track to having 100% of our seniors accepted into a four-year college for the third year in a row, many of our students won’t continue with athletics in college, other than playing intramurals, or perhaps club sports. For many students, especially our males, they live for these Friday night lights.
It’s an interesting, yet sad phenomenon. Sad, when you consider the statistics and the reasons why students from rural areas DON’T attend college. In many areas, young men and women who are extremely gifted and talented don’t attend college, despite excelling in many areas- academics and athletics, just being a few. And for those students, who become alumni, it’s a hard draw for them. I see several in the gyms and the stadiums recalling their own glory days, when they were under those Friday night lights.
At no point do I want to crush the dreams of my students. However, I feel an incredible responsibility to be honest with them about the likelihood that their athletic prowess will be the source of their success. I want to push them towards more. I want the Friday night lights to be a part of their memories, but not the best ones that they have.
Any suggestions on how to make that happen?
Until next time…