090805volleyball.jpgThe girls’ volleyball season is off to a roaring start in Southwestern Virginia and the Lady Buffs of Floyd County High School rack up some impressive stats. The junior varsity team is 3-0 after a heart-stopping game Wednesday night. The varsity’s record is not as perfect but they are winning some of their games while the varsity football team is off to a dismal 0-2 start.

As in other schools, sports dominates life at FCHS. Football, volleyball, golf, baseball, track, soccer and wrestling vie for time on an increasingly-busy schedule. Many find sports a path to a college scholarship. Others play it for fun and move on. Chris Collins, the football star who ran over 1000 yards last season, opted not for college but plans a career in firefighting.

Yet some worry is sports if not too pervasive in school life. The highest paid state official in Virginia is not the governor but Frank Beamer, football coach for Virginia Tech, who pulls down more than $2 million a year. In fact, college athletic coaches and thier assistants dominate the top 10 state salaries. So dominant is sports to Tech that the school overlooked Marcus Vick’s criminal record so he could play football. At the University of Virginia, where academics still matter, the school banned a player last year for offenses less serious than Vick’s. But Virginia is not that pure. They have coaches who pull down well over a million per year.

Should taxpayers pay multi-million dollar salaries to coaches while teachers in our school systems work for wages barely above the poverty levels? You have to wonder about such priorities. Who should be paid more? The coach who drives a young player to the limits of physical and mental endurance? Or the teacher who prepares that kid for a meaningful career in adult life?

I don’t know if there is an easy answer to such a question. Sports have a place in society. The games can teach teamwork and leadership and the physical activity is, of course, important. But there is a danger when sports become an all-dominant, pervasive influence.

Radio shock jock Don Imus may have put it best this morning when he dismissed tonight’s opening of the National Football League season. College sports, he said, should be where such games stop.

“They should play college ball, then graduate and go out and get a real job,” Imus said.

Something to think about even if it will never happen.