Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Kevin . Kevin Wonders, “When did schools allow sport teams? ” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Kevin !

Do you practice your golf swing after school? Maybe you meet your friends for soccer practice. You might work on cheerleading or dance routines. Or perhaps you’d rather watch sports than take part in them. Either way, sports are a huge part of schools today.

But has it always been that way? Try to imagine a world where schools don’t have sports teams. You may find it difficult to do so! Today, over half of all American high school students play a school sport. But today’s school sports look very different than they did a few hundred years ago.

Did you know kids haven’t always gone to school? It’s true! For a long time, only rich families sent their children to school. Often, these children went to boarding schools away from home. There, many kids took part in sports. They learned fencing, lacrosse, and some types of dance. Sometimes they played against other schools, but not always. Often, students at the same school competed with each other instead.

In the United States, Massachusetts became the first state to send all kids to school in 1852. Other states slowly got on board with compulsory education. The last state to do so was Mississippi in 1917. Almost immediately, sports became part of public schools.

Early public schools wanted to give students a well-rounded education. They thought sports would help kids build character. They also wanted to give all students more opportunities to learn and grow. Many schools saw sports as one such opportunity.  

Have you ever watched two school sports teams play against each other? If so, you know these events can be very exciting! However, early school sports didn’t hold many competitions between schools. That didn’t become common until 1903. That year, New York City’s Public School Athletic League for Boys was created. This was the start of formal competitions between students of different schools.

That’s when school sports really began to blossom. Soon, kids were rushing to join baseball, basketball, and track and field teams. But there was still one problem. Not all students had the same opportunities to play. Girls and students with disabilities were often left out. Segregation and racism meant students of color were often left out as well. 

Slowly, this started to change. Segregation became illegal in the mid-20th Century. That led to more opportunities for student athletes of color.  In 1972, Title IX stopped schools from discriminating against students on the basis of gender. Because of Title IX, schools had to offer girls the same opportunities they gave to boys. The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act also brought change. It forced schools to give students with disabilities equal access to sports. 

As of 2013, 7.7 million American students took part in school sports. Many people question how sports impact kids academically. Studies have shown that student athletes are more likely to go to college. They also tend to score well on standardized tests and have positive relations with school staff. 

Are school sports for everyone? Not necessarily. Plenty of kids would rather spend their time doing other activities after school. But for those who do take part, school sports have many benefits. And of course, anyone can enjoy watching a competition between two schools. School sports are sure to remain a popular pastime for years to come.

Standards: C3.D2.His.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, NCAS.A.1, NCAS.A.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.W.1, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.R.10

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Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day will have you seeing contradictions everywhere!