Commonwealth Football Report 4

Turn on any 24-hour news station these days and, within an hour,
you can safely bet that you will see an expert discussingthe
hot topic of the dayin very clear black-and-white terms.
It's good for us as
viewers. We like our solutions wrapped up in 30-second sound
bites and three-minute interviews. We likeusing
laymen's terms that make sense
to us resolving complicated issues in one or two sentences.
better if the presenter can make his or her slogan rhyme.
Unfortunately, life gets in the way of that simplicity because simple
solutions are rare in a complicated, nuanced world.
is the case with a proposal gaining momentumin Henrico County
where public school administrators are forging ahead with a
target="_blank">plan to raise the minimum grade point
average for student-athletes to be eligible to compete.
it now stands, for a student to be eligible to compete in athletic
events, he or she need only to take and pass five subjects per the
Virginia High School League rules.
The Henrico School system
administration wants to raise the standards for their kids.
The plan
is to vote into effect a new standard of maintaining a 2.0 grade point
average in order to compete.
Clean. Simple. Easy. People like it.
What could possibly be wrong with raising standards?
1. Standards, while easy
for some, may not be so easy for others
I thought that high school was easy academically. I usually
finished my "home" work during my daily study hall, and had little
trouble getting good grades. However, I
also had a home life that made the rest of my journey through my
teenage years very easy. Both of my parents were at home,
involved in my life and working hard so that I would have more (and
better) opportunities than them. When I got home from school,
responsibilities were, essentially, to have fun and be a teenager.
couple of years ago, I spoke with a high school coach who had a
Division I prospect who was not going to make the cut academically for
the NCAA Clearinghouse, the organization thatdetermines
whethera high school student is
eligible to play collegiate athletics. The coach described
kid as "extremely bright" and a "high character" individual who
routinely scored A's and B's on all of his tests.
was he ineligible? It was due to the fact that he routinely
failed to turn in homework assignments which greatly lowered his
overall grade in each subject.
Why was that happening? Was the kid lazy or unmotivated?
player had no father at home and he lived with his mother who suffered
from a rare disease which left her in need of constant care.
During the day and while the
player was at football practice, in-home nurses and/or a younger
took care of his mother but, once he came through the front door,
the responsibility for taking care of the houseand looking
hismother fell on him.
Completing any homework assignments was a luxury, not a
due to the demands on his time.
he and I have been judged on the same standards? Could I have
maintained my grades under the same circumstances? How many
2. Limiting opportunities
limits possibilities
The degree and speed to which people mature is quite varied.
kids enter high school knowing that they are gearing up for a college
education while others don't think that earning a high school degree is
possible. The high school years, for many, can be the
ones and, one of the catlysts fortheir maturity is the world
possibilities that opens up before them as they enter high school.
More sports, clubs, classes and subjects all create new doors
through which a person can walk.
For others, that happens at the college level as even more
opportunities are presented.
the traditional college route involves four-year universities, other
options available to high school graduates include junior colleges and
trade schools. Such programs often allowhigh school
underachievers an alternate
route to success. Many of those schools include
athleticprograms so they seek out athletes who aren't going
traditional route. The schools both recruit and offer grant
money in the same fashion as the four-year universities.
limiting a kid's chances to play at the
high school level, you also limit his opportunities to be seen by
thejunior college
and trade school recruiters, thus limiting their opportunities to find
success at that level. The pursuit of knowledge at a
university is admirable, however, there are other routes that can lead
to similar levels of success.
Stories of players who blossomed
late by attending military academies or junior colleges are so
commonplace now that they are taken for granted. Remove the
school opportunities and you'll see those stories dry up and turn
successful transformations into sad statistics.
3. Athletics is not a
In reading the
target="_blank">comments section of the WRIC article about
the Henrico plan,
I was not surprised to see that some people believe that sports and
other extracurricular activities are "rewards". After all,
activities are often fun and the highlight of a teenager's day.
The logic stands then that, if we dangle those activities
acarrot in front of them, kids will be motivated to work
in the classroom to gain their 'reward'.
Having being involved
in sports for nearly 40 years, I find marginalizing athletics by
comparing their impact to that of a dog treat offensive (and yes, I
know that I am being a bit hyperbolic there). However,
is much, much more than a reward.
Athletics creates an
environment where kids can be taught a number of valuable lessons
including the value of teamwork, the reward for hard work, the
importance of discipline, the ability to set and reach for goals, along
with a number of other benefits that they can carry with them into the
world. Why take that away from the kids who likely need it
The Henrico County Public School System (and many others)
are allowing kids the reward of graduating high school and sending them
into the world with less than a 2.0 grade point average annually.
To do so without the benefits gained from extracurricular activities
further devalues that education.
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Editor Rod Johnson is now entering his tenth year with having first written for the site in 2003. To keep up
with even more high school football news in Virginia, follow him on
Twitter @vaprepsrod orfind him on Facebook under
Rod Johnson". He can also be contacted via e-mail at