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GUEST COLUMN: The student athlete who can't play sports

By: Elena Martinez-Vivot
May 16, 2017 Updated: May 19, 2017 at 8:00 am
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There is a widely held notion in this country that the ideal student is one who plays sports and has high academic standards. Colleges and universities across the country praise and idolize these varsity athletes and straight A students. We are a country in which athletics and academics are equal on the scale of importance, yet the current system for high schools makes it almost impossible for students to be high achieving in both categories.

A recent experience brought this conflict to my attention. This past week, The Colorado Springs School Varsity Girl's Soccer Team had to forfeit a 2A division playoff match against Telluride because of scheduling conflicts with Advanced Placement Examinations. After playing a condensed season of 14 games in one month, an average of three games a week, we were elated to make it to playoffs. We have often been considered the underdog team of our division as our school's unique academic calendar forces us to have a shortened season and as a school of 100 students we are lucky to even have one sub available for the team. Most of the team played three 80-minute games a week for the whole season.

It quickly became apparent that thesituation was much more complex than we had anticipated. On Sunday, May 7 the 2Aplayoff seeds were announced, and we were set to play Telluride on May 9. The seven-hour drive to Telluride would mean that we would have to leave Tuesday morning, spend the night in Telluride, and get back late Wednesday afternoon. This became an immediate issue as four seniors on the varsity team were taking AP examinations the day we were scheduled to play Telluride. It was immensely disappointing and frustrating for the team when we were told we had to forfeit, especially for the seniors.

As a senior, I left the field of my last game not knowing it would be my last. I left the field not knowing that I would never have the opportunity to play with my amazing teammates again. I left the field thinking we were going to playoffs. I do not place the full blame of this outcome on The Colorado High School Activities Association, as there were many confounding variables at play. But I do believe the situation could have been handled better.

The game could have been rescheduled, as other playoff games were; a more central location could have been found; or the playoff pool could have been shuffled. Yet when we brought our concerns to CHSAA they said that nothing could be done.

In this circumstance I feel that an equitable opportunity was not provided to my team to participate in the 2A girls soccer playoffs. Many on the soccer team were frustrated, to say the least. but it prompted me to ask the question: can one truly be a student and an athlete? In the end many of us chose to be students, not because we lacked commitment or passion for our sport but because we were literally left with no other option. For many taking an AP exam is not just a matter of striving to be a high achieving student, it can save students money and time in college. This begs the question: "How can an institution like CHSAA, that prides itself in promoting high achieving athletes, fail to recognize such a major conflict as State Soccer Playoffs and AP exams?" How can we set such high standards for student athletes if they are sometimes impossible to achieve?

In no way can I claim to have to the solution to this dilemma, but I do think it is important to start a conservation about the conflict of academics and sports. Some will say students will simply have to choose between being varsity athlete or an AP student. But I reject this claim. As someone who recently went through the college admissions process I know that most selective colleges and universities will only consider those who are high achieving in both categories. If Colorado values creating competitive students in an even more competitive applicant pool, then the institutions involved need to reconsider the current relationship between sports and academics.

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Elena Martinez-Vivot is a member of the Class of 2017 at The Colorado Springs School.

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