Reflecting on a trimester of the athletic attendance policy

Euwan Kim

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The new athletic attendance policy, a well-intended attempt to ensuring students’ commitment to their sports teams, is not only difficult to execute but also an arbitrary annoyance to the students. It is difficult to enforce, unfair to devoted athletes, and burdensome for already-stressed student athletes.
In previous years, absences could be excused with an email or a conversation with a coach before practice. This new policy, however, states that students are only excused for school events, medical emergencies, or illness. Under these circumstances, students are required to fill out an athletic excused absence form. After the second unexcused absence, students are required to meet with their head coach and seasonal associate athletic director. Unexcused absences are a whole different thing: students are required to meet with their head coaches, seasonal associate director of athletics, director of athletics, and grade dean. After five unexcused absences, the student is cut from the team.
This fall, I received four cut slips for missing practice (for a variety of reasons), and every time I received a cut slip, I needed to get my coaches to sign it. Since practice was after school and my coaches were not available during the school day, I almost always handed in my cut slips late. One time, I handed in my cut slip a full week after it was due. My coach never confronted me about the consequences of my missed practices, and I was never suspended from a game. A few of my friends have received more cut slips, and they also didn’t hear from their coaches.
This can seem unfair to those students who have perfect attendance when their teammates can get away with missing practices, because the policy is not enforced. Furthermore, even if the policy was enforced effectively, it would be unfair to students who are talented athletes with good sportsmanship to be punished or even removed from the team for missing a few practices. This policy also discourages out-of-school athletes from participating in school sports, because they cannot find the time to balance both activities.
I understand why the administration implemented the policy; last winter, only three girls on the winter track team had made 90% or more of the practices. Although the policy is only in its first year, its inability to increase attendance has posed many problems for the athletic department’s future. At this school, there is a large focus on studies, so students can’t be expected to prioritize sports over academics. Many student athletes take an occasional day off to catch up on work, meet with teachers, or study for an upcoming assessment. It’s unreasonable that the administration expects students to find the time, energy, and mental strength to fulfill all academic and athletic expectations while also managing the rest of their lives. It is true that it is the students who make the choice to join a team, but there is a difference between participating in extracurricular activities and focusing solely on one sport.