Pop culture, the media, and many social avenues are trending toward promoting the “Us v. Them” mentality. As fellow arts educators, we can certainly commiserate with teachers of the arts about athletics departments and the financial, admin support, and student interest imbalances that some experience. However, we would rather take a moment to remember what it’s all about: gifting students with the tools to go into the world as balanced, healthy, well-rounded adults.
With that in mind, let’s explore some of the ways that sports and the arts can work together to benefit the student, and take a position of support for what each department has to offer.
Running sprints and building a costume require completely different sets of skills, but both gross motor and fine motor development are necessary for success. While the athlete will focus primarily on gross motor skills during training and playing various sports, these scenarios don’t offer a lot of opportunity to perfect precise control of small muscles. Sewing, painting, drawing, and playing instruments can provide those precision movements, but generally miss gross motor skills. Putting athletes onstage and backstage, and artists on the field, mean ample chances to develop both of these necessary development skills. Both athletics and theatre also build coordination and proprioception in students of all ages.
Theatre is an excellent avenue for learning to prioritize tasks. With all that must be done in preparation for a show, each member of cast and crew need to be able to not only organize their responsibilities but also determine the order in which things need to be accomplished. Sports also train students to focus on the task at hand and be disciplined to finish the task well. When describing the ideal student, one who can organize, prioritize, focus, and finish is a dream! Doing both arts and sports bring a beautiful balance of skills that can enhance every student’s success.
Athletes and artists both learn how to focus on a goal and work hard to achieve it. Sports encourage healthy competition and a drive to better oneself, as well as the team. Theatre encourages inclusion and creating an environment in which every skill level can thrive. Together, these are tools that develop perseverance, self-improvement, creative thinking, and relating to others in healthy ways.
The American workplace is constantly changing. There will always be a level of competition in that environment, but it is becoming increasingly necessary for employees to exhibit empathy, compassion, and creative problem-solving abilities. Giving students the tools to be competitive, in a healthy way that emphasizes compassion for others, is a combination that will set the next generation up for success!
In a world of division, Theatre has always strived to be a safe space where everyone can feel included. It’s important that students feel the sense of belonging and the intrinsic reward of successfully completing a task with a group of peers. When we, as teachers, encourage all students with broad interests to be a part of the Theatre (or any of the Arts) we promote balanced and well-rounded students. And most importantly, we get the chance to show the world that, in the Theatre, love wins and everyone belongs!