For decades, the United States has followed one universal grading system in order to determine a child’s success in school. Grades have become perhaps the be-all-end-all of education, so much so that shorthand references, like grade point average (GPA), have been created so that a student’s academic record may be judged at a glance. However, grades are no longer a simple labeling system; they now have lasting and profound consequences. Once earned, they serve as a key determinant of future success—a mechanism through which schools, universities and employers judge individual achievement. The pressure to obtain high marks has seemingly increased with each new generation, even starting to expand into the world of extracurriculars.
Academic merit now goes hand-in-hand with sports at Chattahoochee, a policy that requires athletes participating in a school sport to also sport a quality GPA. The discussion of grades in correlation with sports has been a recent buzz at Hooch after the girl’s soccer team was forced to forfeit some of their wins due to a violation of this policy: a player who did not meet grade requirements necessary for participation played in five region games. As a result, the team was stripped of their rank and ability to compete in the playoffs, bringing an abrupt end to their season. In lieu of this situation, many are now questioning Hooch’s grade and sports policy and concerns have been voiced over its fairness.
In order to be eligible to participate, practice and/or try out in interscholastic activities, a student must be academically eligible. According to the Interscholastic Athletic Handbook, “a student is required to pass classes that carry at least 2.5 Carnegie Units counting toward graduation the semester immediately preceding participation.” During the semester of participation, an athlete must have a seventy or above in all classes. In other words, students participating in a spring sport must have passed 5 out of 6 classes fall semester and maintain an average of seventy or above throughout the season. In order to participate in school-funded athletics, a student must be a scholar and contribute academically to their school, as endorsed by Fulton County. The handbook defines participation in sports as a “privilege” that can be revoked when rules are not followed. It states, “A student who elects to participate in the interscholastic athletic activity program is voluntarily making a choice of self-discipline and self-denial. Failure to comply with the rules of training and conduct may mean exclusion from participation. This concept of self-discipline and self-denial is tempered by our responsibility to recognize the rights of the individual within the objectives of the team or activity….When you represent your school, we assume that you not only understand your school’s goals and traditions, but also that you are willing to assume the responsibilities that go with them.”
When choosing to participate in a both academically and athletically inclined activity, you sign a contract that says you understand these conditions and expectations. This goes for the administrators and coaches as well, whose job it is to make sure all rules are being followed. Whether or not you agree with this policy, the county is on students’ side, believing that “a properly controlled, well-organized interscholastic athletic activity program meets with students’ needs for self-expression, mental alertness and physical growth. It is our hope to maintain a program that is sound in purpose and that will further each student’s educational maturity.”
Grades have seemingly become an all-determinant in one’s future success; not only are grades dominant in school careers, but they are now a part of athletic careers as well. However, while many may be disappointed at recent events involving the girl’s soccer team, it corresponds with Fulton County’s mission to teach academic discipline in accordance with sports. This recent issue with the soccer team shows that sports are not a free ride and nothing is guaranteed. You must earn the right to play; if you make the choice to sacrifice your academic career, you sacrifice your athletic career as well.