The Record

Athletic attendance policy: a disservice to the school’s athletics

Honor McCarthy and Nikki Sheybani

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For us, the pool and the field have always been a playground and a home. Playing sports has indubitably been one of our most rewarding experiences at Horace Mann. 

The only thing greater than the number of hours we’ve spent at practice is our love and gratitude for our coaches. Their unwavering dedication and support – in athletics and beyond-embodies what it means to be good athletes and better people. 

With 27 seasons of HM sports between us, we know firsthand the benefits of sports and want all HMers to share that experience. We feel the current attendance policy contradicts HM’s culture of support and does a disservice to our community. 

In the past, coaches have helped us navigate three trimesters of sports with our extracurricular commitments. Nearly every Wednesday during Mannikin meetings, Nikki would lace up her cleats before running to practice to finish warming-up with the team. Honor often sprinted from swim meets to debate tournaments, her hair still dripping wet. 

Whether on or off the field, our coaches have made compromises that allowed us to pursue all of our interests and exercise leadership and teamwork in different arenas. The attendance policy makes this balancing act even more difficult, without making players or teams better. 

While all teams strive for competitive success, sports are fundamentally a welcome reprieve from the intellectual workouts of the day, an outlet for stress, and a group of friends. And we think sports should be fun – HM isn’t a “Friday Night Lights” style breeding ground for professional athletes. Any effort to get students away from their desks, albeit temporarily, is a win. 

The more students who play sports recreationally the better, but the rigid attendance policy dissuades students from participating at all. It’s virtually impossible for students to balance traveling for extracurriculars or taking a needed breather during a “Hell Week” with the inflexible consequences for missing practices. 

When forced to pick between sports and clubs, our school’s culture encourages most students to opt for the latter. But the policy paints a false dichotomy between the two; it’s better for someone to attend 90% of practices than none, especially when the few practices missed are spent serving another team – be it The Record or Model UN. The values our coaches have instilled in us – hard work, camaraderie, and responsibility for others – are just as relevant at a lacrosse tournament as they are at a debate one. Being captain of a team and president of a club work in tandem. We should celebrate that our school is a place where you can be a swimmer and a writer and an actor, even if you can’t do it all in one afternoon. 

Adulthood requires managing conflicting commitments. To prepare for the world outside of HM, students should practice planning ahead and compromising – having frank discussions about their busy schedules with coaches throughout each season. The attendance policy strips us of this responsibility. 

Beyond deterring participation, the consequences for missing competitions run contrary to the mission of the athletic program. This policy has had tangible, negative impacts on students like us. After Honor discussed with her coach which debate tournaments she would skip for swim meets and vice versa in November, she was benched for her second to last meet. Fundamentally, it’s counterintuitive that the “punishment” for missing one competition is missing another one. We think that a better policy for missing sports would be coaching a middle school team or spending more time at practice. 

We understand that there must be a standardized, minimum threshold for attendance. However, the primary responsibility for determining the specifics should rest with athletes and their coaches, who have a better sense of what best serves the team. A top-down, one-size-fits-all policy hurts the very students it claims to help. 

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Athletic attendance policy: a disservice to the school’s athletics