When Top Student-athletes Speak, We Ought To Listen

SIDELINES

April 21, 1991|By PAT O'MALLEY

As old-time TV host Ark Linkletter used to say, "Kids say the darndest things." And let's face it, wise adults can learn from youths.

A week from today, the ninth annual Anne Arundel County Sun All-County Academic-Athletic Team will be announced. The team will consist of 12 boys and 12 girls who are chosen as outstanding student-athletes from a list of nearly 100 applications.

Each candidate was asked to write an essay on whether the county public school requirement of a 1.67 grade-point average to participate in high school athletics should be raised to 2.00.

Until now, noone had asked the kids what they think. This county appointed a highschool student to its school board, so obviously it wants student input.

Yet neither the board nor anyone else has asked the students what GPA requirements should be for athletes. Is it because the adults who make decisions for the youths assumed the kids would take the easy way out and keep the 1.67?

If our response from nearly 100 students is any indication, that assumption is wrong. In a sampling of student-athletes from every high school in the county, some 92 percentsaid it should be raised to 2.00.

A total of 84 boys and girls voted in favor of raising the GPA; while five voted not to raise it; two were undecided (young politicians); and three applications omitted essays.

Raising a good point against the 2.00 was Kim Myers, Glen Burnie's All-County soccer goalie, who maintains a 3.90 GPA and recently received a part-soccer and part-engineering school scholarship toRutgers University (N.J.).

"It is not the lazy students who are not willing to put forth an academic effort for whom I am concerned, but rather, those students who were neglected in elementary school andtruly find the requirement nearly impossible to meet," wrote Myers.

She pointed out that too many times students are "pushed" through the lower levels. When they get to high school, they "are on the verge of dropping out when wrestling, football or some other sport steps in and actually gives the student a sense of accomplishment. . . . (He) ends up feeling proud of himself."

Vivian Vail Pearson of South River High also is against higher standards. Pearson, who carries a3.50 GPA while being involved in two sports, said that "students whose grades are between 1.67 and 2.00 are the ones that would be eliminated from sports.

"These are the at-risk students who will most likely be more successful by having the support of athletics in their lives."

Jeff Farr of Arundel, a soccer and lacrosse star who carries a 3.50, said: "Some students are in school with the main purpose ofparticipating in interscholastic athletics.

"Although this is notthe best reason to attend school, it is providing this student with a purpose to stay in school."

The three cited above as not being decidedly in favor of raising the GPA are all seniors. Their opinions are based on experience and are to be given credence.

But the "yeas" easily had it, and the overriding point of the majority of those who are in favor of the 2.00 was well said by North County senior Elise Maccubbin, a two-sport, 3.60 student. She wrote: "One must be able to get his/her priorities in order. This process should begin in highschool, and one's top priority should be academics."

And catch this comment from Maccubbin -- "Playing sports in high school is a privilege."

She said that by lifting the requirements, "some of our more lazy athletes may be motivated to excel," and that "too much emphasis is placed on sports, and grades are permitted to suffer."

The Baker twins from Old Mill High, Alison and Amanda, are junior multisport athletes and the daughters of North County athletic director, Mike Baker. Both agree the GPA needs to be raised.

Arundel's Tara Beauchemin, a 3.93 junior student on three varsity teams, made an excellent point echoed by many county high school coaches: "When they raised the requirement from 0.66 to 1.67, the athletes made the grade because they wanted to play. If a 2.0 is the requirement, I'm sure the athletes will again work to make the grade."

Michael Mazzola of South River, a 3.42 student in three sports, said: "If an athlete assumesa position on a team using a minimum of effort, he/she will not onlylet the team down but will quickly stumble and fall himself."

I wish I had room for more comments, but the students have spoken and I hope the board members read this carefully.

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