Academic vs Athletic

In China, it means everything to be well-educated. Academics are given prestige, opportunities & praise. In the U.S., the same view is shared regarding sports. Athletes and academics are not miles apart.

As an American living in the south, I grew up with the understanding that sport is everything. Never once did I have to think about the benefits of playing American football (also known as football to Americans), soccer, basketball, or any other sport. It never occurred to me to ask myself if my family were best utilizing their time by camping on the weekend or taking my brother and I to various professional sporting events. Of course, this lack of questioning the usefulness of hobbies is only natural for children.

In China, the highest scoring students walk around schools with the same confidence that successful athletes do in the U.S.

Children in China also do not question whether the curriculum in their schools are properly bringing them along or if spending nights in English training centers is ensuring their path to a meaningful existence or successful career. I am often amazed by the sheer amount of time and money that parents are willing to put into furthering their children’s ability to speak English. Students, even those under the age of eight years old, often stay in school from 8 am to 5 in the evening, only to reenter a training center for another two hours later that night. Otherwise, students attend a boarding school, which means even more hours of schooling. The intensity both baffles and inspires me.

However, this gap between Chinese and American culture isn’t as large as one might assume. Chinese and American parents both have the same goal of giving their child the best life possible. In China, the most important stage to differentiate oneself as exceptional is in academics. The highest scoring students walk around schools with the same confidence that successful athletes do in the U.S. Friends come easily as recognition of their accomplishments and prestige is widely acknowledged by their peers. Other students know and are even proud of the bright future ahead of their classmates. In the U.S., it’s the public stage of collegiate sports which are largely televised throughout the country and fervently followed by alumni and local fans. Often these athletes have their college tuition paid for and are given preferential treatment by the university in a variety of matters. It’s not too different in China. Successful students look forward to the prestige of attending the country’s most sought after universies. After being accepted into an academic powerhouse, they are able to set out a course for their life that will ensure success in their career.

Obviously, not all Americans hope their children become successful athletes and not all Chinese parents fill their child’s schedules with extra chances to study. However, when you look at the money both of these countries pour into organizations promoting each industry, it seems to support the idea that both are valued by the majority of the population.

Clearly, it’s only right for parents to want the best for their children. Yet as we move into a new age where exceptional people often don’t fit traditional molds, we must look at the true value each activity adds to our child’s intellect, personality, and happiness—both now and later—and intentionally decide upon a course that gives them the greatest chance at living a purposeful life. In order to do this, we must at least temporarily put aside the traditional pressures of society, our biases, and the promises of businesses looking to enroll/coach our children and think of those ideals we hold to be right for all people to hold in their character and those skills necessary for a full life. It’s our duty to be intentional in determining which extracurricular courses and activities are right for our sons’ and daughters’ present happiness and future development.

At HERE! Outdoors, we obviously believe that there is much to be gained from outdoor activities and sports. We hope to provide you with an increasing number of programs for you and your child/children to attend as you deem useful to your family. Please let us know what programs you would like to see available and how to best meet your family’s needs in this area by emailing