Two years ago, the U-32 boys track team won the state championship title for the third year straight. Two of the students on the team were failing classes. The combined score of those two students was enough to make the difference between winning and losing. At most schools this would not have been possible.
The page in the U-32 sports handbook that outlines the policy regarding sports eligibility starts by saying this: “Students who participate in co-curricular activities at U-32 have all of the same academic obligations as other students. They should never use their participation in co-curricular activities to shirk academic responsibilities.”
Most schools require students to be passing all of their classes in order to remain eligible for sports. Here at U-32, you could be failing all your classes but as long as you showed up, you would remain eligible to play.
U-32’s eligibility policy for student athletes is as lenient as it gets. Thanks to that leniency, the track team’s third straight win was possible. At most surrounding Washington county schools, this would not be the case. Spaulding and Montpelier, if both in that same situation, would have lost without the extra players. Their system is focused around grades rather than just showing up to school.
The policy seemingly fails to include students that are failing some classes yet continue to play sports. For principal Steven Dellinger-Pate, the fact of the matter is that students motivated by good grades will continue to get them regardless of sports, but for some students this is too much of a stretch. “For the kid who isn’t motivated by grades, getting them to come because of co-curriculars may be their only motivation to be in classes and show up.” Dellinger-Pate added that “if we can at least get them in the door we might have the chance to teach them.”
The new Athletic Director, Hank Van Orman, added that the policy also focuses on citizenship within the school community. “If you’re acting out and you get in trouble, whether it’s in these hallways or potentially even outside, if it comes back to the school then that could also be a factor in whether the young athlete can participate.”
The debate hinges on whether or not this is the best method to determine eligibility, and how the new proficiency grading system will affect the eligibility policy. Unlike U-32, Montpelier implemented proficiencies for everyone, not just for lowerclassmen. Their new system to determine eligibility is based completely on proficiency standards. In an email, Montpelier athletic director Matt Link elaborated on their exact policy:
“Our academic policy is now based off of our preparedness grades. Which are scores that the students get for how prepared they are for each class. Do they arrive on time, do they complete their homework on time and with the appropriate amount of effort put in, do they interact in class, and are they showing the ability to be proficient in the material are what determine the preparedness grade.”
Montpelier’s policy does what U-32’s does not, and includes both grades and attendance. The grades part is very lenient but some effort has to be shown for students to be eligible for sports.
Montpelier and U-32 both see eye to eye in their expectations of showing up to school and being good citizens. The U-32 athletic director defined it by saying “the U-32 policy is simply ‘attendance, citizenship and follow through.’”
Quintin Pelzel, a U-32 football player, disagrees with the policy. “U-32 is one of the only schools around with such a weak policy, and I think it really sends a bad message to athletes that they just need to show up but not actually put any work into the school side,” Pelzel said.
This being the case, many wonder if it is time that U-32 follows in Montpelier’s footsteps and risk the consequence that may come, or if U-32 should continue with its lenient policy and reap the rewards in terms of championship caliber sports teams?