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The Student-Athlete Dilemma

"Athletes should not have to sacrifice either academics or athletics."

Before+they+take+the+court%2C+varsity+boys+basketball+coach+Rico+Reed+speaks+with+his+team%27s+players.
Before they take the court, varsity boys basketball coach Rico Reed speaks with his team's players.

Before they take the court, varsity boys basketball coach Rico Reed speaks with his team's players.

Photo Credit: Yearbook Staff

Photo Credit: Yearbook Staff

Before they take the court, varsity boys basketball coach Rico Reed speaks with his team's players.

By Sara Khan, Staff Writer

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At Flint Hill, students are required to complete four credits of athletics, two of which must be team sports. Although team sports credits can be completed by managing a team, several students choose to participate in one to three sports that take up a significant amount of time in their hectic schedules. These athletes, including myself, have practices until 6:00 p.m. on most days and anywhere from one to four games per week that can go on until nearly 8:00 p.m. For athletes on the Varsity Field Hockey team, participants were required to have practices before school on some days, posing a larger problem for students. Should teachers be lenient towards in-season athletes, or should athletes be able to sacrifice their playing time in order to maintain their grades?

Students already do not get their recommended amount of sleep. According to a recent Town Meeting presentation, most of the students at Flint Hill say that they do not receive six to eight hours of sleep. A suggestion to complete only the allotted time period of work, even if this means not completing the assignment, and later talking to the teacher, has not proven very successful. A deadline is a deadline, and if work isn’t completed, it is the student’s fault. This applies to non-athletes as well as managers, who have opportunities to complete their work during the players’ practices, or off-season athletes. With the additional burden of completing work while pursuing their interests, sleep becomes the lowest priority on our minds.

As a freshman on the Varsity Girls’ Tennis team in the fall, I did not feel much stress when completing assignments on time and being a member of the team. During the fall, the coaches mentioned that receiving play time meant that each team member needed to be punctual when arriving at practice unless they had a private lesson or a test to take. However, when a student was in trouble with schoolwork, if they didn’t come on time to the match, even before it started, the student could not participate. However, now that I am playing softball, coaches have shown more of a support for athletics.

Learning center specialist Matthew Philipp, the Head JV Softball coach, is a strong believer in academics over athletics, saying that “Varsity and JV Softball athletes are always welcome to use the extra help time and take a bus at 3:40 to practice rather than the 3:10 bus. If needed, students can take time off from softball to improve their grades.”

I am currently taking seven classes, five of which are honors classes, and I find it somewhat difficult to manage classes with sports. Other students in the Flint Hill community, however, have different opinions regarding the balance between athletics and academics.

Freshman Julie Ellison, a Varsity Field Hockey team member, shared her opinion regarding the topic: “I enjoyed the experience playing field hockey, and I made a lot of friends. Finishing work was difficult, but I made sure to utilize my free periods and extra help time to make sure I had less work to do at home.”

On the other hand, freshman Sydney Abell, a Volleyball and Lacrosse team member, says that “I have a lot of difficulty completing my work due to sports and my outside activities. There is really nothing I feel that I can do to make my work less or my coaches less strict on practice times.”

Although Julie, Sydney, and I take classes of varying difficulty, the amount of work that each student can handle varies tremendously.

Taylor Johnson, a Modern European History Honors and AP Microeconomics teacher, says that “I do not believe that teachers should go light or reduce loads…but they should be willing to work with a student who recognizes a time crunch…and comes to the teacher to work out an alternative plan. The athletics department has been fairly clear that academics comes first. Perhaps not all students and not all coaches know of this policy. Since there is only so much time in one’s day, it would seem these two objectives are at odds with each other. That is one reason why I give students an assignment sheet for an entire unit. I want them to be able to work ahead when their workload is light in order to compensate for the time crunch of the big team competition in two days’ time, for example.”

I am one of Mr. Johnson’s students, and I benefit from his assignment sheet for the entire unit so I can plan ahead and complete work before a tournament or another sports event. Academics is a priority, and students should be treated equally, no matter what their situation, unless they are injured or have another issue allowing them to receive an alternative plan. Athletes should not have to sacrifice either academics or athletics, and can use such assignment sheets or other strategies, in my opinion. If coaches are strict, then they should be notified of the athletic department’s policy. This will definitely fix a lot of the stress that students are under.

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