The blinding friday night lights

February 9, 2009

(the following is the outline of a persuasive speech given concerning the current state of high school athletics)


                When the Emmy winning hit TV series “Friday Night Lights” first premiered in October of 2006, only 2 years after the star studded movie of the same title hit the silver screen, many got a glimpse into a slice of America that most of us in West Texas had grown up with and grown fond of, an America where football is king and a football game, more, any high school game…is not just a game.


                High school athletics as well as team sports in general at any age level instill good values such as good sportsmanship, hard work, teamwork, responsibility and among others produce positive self esteem. But what lies in the shadows of the sometimes blinding Friday night lights? An increasing amount of pressure on young athletes to perform has led to the undermining of the very values that athletics is supposed to create. There are unintended consequences that have quickly become evident through an increased use of steroids by teens, a disproportionate amount of focus on athletics versus academics, and parents that are simply out of control.

                (Transition) Young athletes, especially talented ones, find themselves under enormous pressure from their coaches and community. When winning is everything, athletes sometimes turn to illegal substances to boost their performance.   


 I.            Steroid use


  •   1/8 boys 1/12 girls, (Weise)
  •   75% of steroid users are in high school
  •   Dallas Morning News  (Jones)
  •   270,000 U.S. students in the eighth, 10th and 12th grades have used steroids
  •   use among 12th-graders was 62 percent higher in 2006 than in 1991 and 33 percent higher among 10th-graders



                (Transition)Although an increased use of steroids among teens is troubling, it’s easy to connect the dots to see where the pressure to perform comes from. High school athletics, what used to be an after school activity is now big business in west Texas and other parts of the country, with everyday more and more money changing hands in order to build up school athletic programs.


 II.            Disproportionate Amount of Focus

on Athletics vs. Academics


v     “… high school sports in America has become an epidemic of win-at-all-costs in too many places, just as corroded as college and the pros; actually more so because none of the ends can possibly justify the means when many of those involved are still too young to vote.”  



  •     $70,000 on chartered jet trips to several away games
  •     new or pending high school football stadium projects in the Dallas area alone costing close to $180 million
  •     North Hills High, in the Pittsburgh region, spent $10 million to renovate the stadium and build a 13,000-square-foot field house.
  • v    In Valdosta, Ga., $7.5 million was spent to renovate its football stadium, including building a museum to the glory of the Valdosta Wildcats
  • v     Jefferson, Ind., as part of a privately financed $8 million building project, there’s a new 6,000-seat high school football stadium with an expensive video scoreboard.


                (Transition)Where does this money come from? How do schools that are making cutbacks left and right afford million dollar athletic facilities? Where does a large portion of all this enormous pressure come from? The Parents.


   III.            Parents


  A 2004 survey in SportingKid magazine found that 84 percent of parents had witnessed “violent parental behavior” toward children, coaches or officials at kids’ games. And 80 percent of parents said they had been victims of such behavior.”

  Referee Horror stories,

  •   Pennsylvania (Basketball) — A parent body-slammed a high school referee after he ordered the man’s wife out of the gym for allegedly yelling obscenities during a basketball game.
  •   A referee was slugged in the head and neck after ejecting a New Jersey High School player with 12:47 left in a scoreless game
  •   A 43 year old parent was charged with two counts of aggravated battery and one count of battery after allegedly charging onto the field and attempting to choke the game official
  •   A father of a T-ball player was briefly jailed after an outburst against an umpire during a game involving 5- and 6-year-olds. The accused threatened to beat the umpire moments before walking onto the field and starting a fight with the game official.
  •   A 15-year-old tee-ball umpire, was allegedly choked and punched by a 37-year-old assistant coach of a tee-ball team for five-and six-year-olds. The umpire was treated at the hospital for bruises around his neck and a burst blood vessel in his eye.


                (Transition)The purpose of presenting this information is not a plea to end high school athletics. Sports, when there is a healthy balance of competitive spirit, can very beneficial to those who are involved. As always, an unhealthy dose of anything can be detrimental.



                All of us have recently left high school. Regardless of whether or not you were involved in sports at a younger age, I feel that the atmosphere surrounding what used to be a pleasant pastime has taken a nasty turn. Hopefully our generation can bring up our children in a more sportsmanlike manner. Because the old saying, however cliché, remains true. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game

Works Cited


Jones, Greg. “The Secret Edge.” Dallas Morning News 24 January 2008.

Lalley, Heather. “Making Parents Good Sports.” Spokesman Review 30 January 2006.

NASO. Poor Sporting Behavior Incidents Report. Racine, WI: NASO, 2005.

Weise, Elisabeth. “Adolescents Bulk Up Their Bodies.” USA Today 31 July 2005.


One Response to “The blinding friday night lights”

  1. Sandra Says:

    I remember this from communications.

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