Putting the athlete back in student-athlete: Why should athletes have to go to school?

With the beginning of this school year, a new grade requirement for athletic eligibility has come into effect. Under these new requirements, athletes must pass all of their classes, with a minimum of five classes. Prior to this year, the rule had been that athletes must be enrolled in at least five classes, but were only required to pass four class to remain eligible. The change is an effort by the state of Iowa to encourage increased effort in the classroom by athletes who otherwise may not care about their grades. “School should come before athletics,” junior Clark Ennis said. Says who? By raising the eligibility requirements, the state is only adding pressure and emotional pain to athletes already on edge. “If I failed, I’d be upset because I wouldn’t be able to play,” junior Jordan Burgason said. It is bad enough when athletes are forced to compete at less than 100%, but a school’s reputation is put in significant jeopardy when its best athletes are barred from competition. Performance in competition is the easiest, and often the best, indicator of the quality of a school. Interscholastic competition is the one arena that offers schools the chance to earn respect from and make an impression on other schools. Thus, the reputation of a school depends greatly on the performance of its athletes. “Last year when you thought of Ames High you thought of Austen Arnaud, not some National Merit Scholar,” senior Danny Haugo said. It seems like it would be in the best interests of the school that all athletes be as mentally and physically prepared to compete as possible. Studying all night to avoid failing a test is no way to prepare for the big game. “If Bret Ballantine had one less class, he’d be a schmazzle gazzle millionaire,” Haugo said. With the weight of the entire school on their shoulders, athletes have enough stress. To counteract the state’s attempt to bring down the performance of the school’s athletic teams, Ames High should adopt a policy of reaching out to athletes to compensate for the effect that studying has on athletic performance. The first step in helping athletes would be requiring that all athletes enroll in the minimum five classes, and the easiest classes. Tutors could then be assigned to relieve the stress of homework, studying, etc. Due to the rigor of sports practices, athletes would only attend classes in the afternoon, to ensure that they receive a full night’s rest. Once the athletes arrive at school, they would only have to be in one classroom for their five periods. Instead of having athletes waste energy walking from room to room during passing time, teachers would switch rooms between classes, allowing their pupils to save their legs for competition. “Schools actually do that, in the south,” junior Ben Cotton said. Although these changes to the school day would be minor, they would go a long way toward athletic success. The new eligibility requirement is a bother for now, but Ames High should not allow this change in rules to dictate how athletes prepare for competition. With just a few tweaks to school policy, Ames High athletics could be back on top where they belong.