Merit is not fixed at birth.

There is nothing that government can’t achieve, if we funnel more money and social equality into addressing so-called problems:

One of the most important things that government could do to reduce drug use, fight the obesity epidemic and deal with a host of other youth problems is quite simple: Include more kids in organized after-school sports.

But to do that, we must first make some major changes in interscholastic sports programs in the nation’s public middle and high schools. The goal should be full inclusion: Nobody gets cut from the team.

The essay is bad, with little that is practical or desirable. But there are two points that get lost in this recommendation. First, kids in organized sports use drugs. I recall this from my one year of high school baseball, but it’s not a leap to realize that kids in sports are still kids. Kids make bad choices. Maybe lack of participation in sports plays a role in increasing drug use, but I want evidence before accepting it as truth. It’s dumb to throw more money at something with hope that it’ll fix what we’ve only assumed.

To the second point, there are other outlets for organized sports, but the school team carries greater weight. I agree. Yet, merit is vital as a measuring stick for kids. I wanted to be on the baseball team in high school, but I wasn’t good enough to play beyond one season. That was tough, but I dealt with it by working hard to improve. If I’d known I would make the team, I would’ve had no incentive to practice. Toss in this suggested implementation strategy and there is little reason to care:

To ensure that schools would field the most competitive teams, the most skilled players would still get the bulk of the playing time at the varsity level. But no one would be cut.

Pardon me for disagreeing, but I never wanted to sit when I played organized sports. As a kid, I’d rather play for a losing team than watch from the bench as a good team wins. I even skipped a season of Little League as a kid because I knew I wouldn’t get to play much. The effort involved to practice with the team only to watch other kids play would not have been worth the minor payoff of being included. I played catch and practiced with my brother to play the game.

I coached Little League one season. I made a rule in the beginning of the season that playing was more important than winning. Every kid would play an equal amount of time, regardless of skill or the score of the game. I communicated this at the first practice. When the season was over, every kid had played the same number of innings. We didn’t win much, but the kids played together as a team as the season progressed. They helped each other and the team played better every week.

I wouldn’t implement such a policy in business, but extracurricular activities is not business. Kids are smart enough to understand who has more (and less) talent. What that team found out was that every kid could develop the talent he or she had, no matter how limited or expansive. Isn’t that more important for kids than being included on the periphery?

Instead of spending more money so that everyone (allegedly) feels good about themselves, communities should address the problem with an approach open to the best solution. It should not flow from a preferred political outcome. If involvement is so important with sports, and I believe it is, kids need an environment where they know their efforts will be rewarded. Merit is a vital measuring stick, regardless of how abundant that talent is, but it’s measured individually as much as it is collectively.