Athletes voice their opinion in school-wide survey

Audrey Miller, Features Editor

It’s no secret that Joliet West has a competitive, eager, and fully determined coaching staff with the authority and natural ability to push student athletes past all limits of expectation. Obviously they’re doing something right, considering that West placed in over twenty state championships and continues to succeed every year. As students walk past the hallways near the gym and the locker rooms, they can’t help but notice the remarkable displays of athletic achievement scattered throughout. There are shadow boxes full of trophies and awards and hundreds of pictures of past competitors decorating the walls. As a school, West shows a tremendous amount of pride in their athletic abilities and team triumph, but what about the academics?

In the 2009 American College Testing (ACT) statistics, West’s composite scores fell short of the state’s average. In that same year, PSAE results came back with scores that were up to 17% lower than the Illinois state average, embarrassing and negatively representing the school. While West may be excelling in sports, it’s clear the school is not living up to its potential academically.

 “To tell you the truth, I really don’t like my schedule. We have one day off a week, which is Sunday, and that just doesn’t cut it for me,” varsity player Tresa Fahrner said, “I can’t keep up with all my assignments, and one day off  just isn’t a sufficient amount of time for me to study and prepare for my classes.”

In a recent school-wide survey of 100 student athletes, 67% said that their sports schedules do interfere with their school work. Steve Millsaps, Activity and Athletic Director, wrote on the JTHS website that “the cornerstone of our athletic department philosophy is that students can balance the pursuit of athletic and academic excellence simultaneously. Our athletic staff is committed to providing everything needed to reach the athletes potential athletically, while excelling inside the classroom.”

 “Although I feel like the amount of time I devote to volleyball at West is necessary, I do believe it hinders my abilities in the academic department,” athlete Kenny Nguyen said, “I struggle to get by in math.”

 Between balancing school work, sports, clubs, and any other time consuming activities, it can be difficult for a high school student to catch a break. In another survey, 100 student athletes were asked if they were happy with their current sports schedules. 83% said that they are unhappy compared to only 13% who said that they are. 4% of the students are undecided on the matter, but what about the coaches? They must have lives too, right?

Kevin Michaels, Physical Education and Health Instructor said, “I don’t think athletes should have to work this hard. I’m a competitive guy myself and all for sports, but I’ve heard of some coaches in other schools who have their players going six days a week! That is insane, and in the long run, it just may push these kids away from the sport altogether. I’d hate to see that happen.”

On the flip side, Scott Gentile, Assistant Varsity Baseball Coach, claimed that these schedules are “brutal but necessary in order to be successful.” West’s physical trainer, rightfully called “Jim the Trainer”, claimed that the current setup is “fine” and later adds that “it should be seven days a week”.

Although some people don’t agree with the schedules, while others are in favor of it, statistics don’t lie. That is why as a high school, West is obligated to put academics first at all costs. Teachers and coaches should be applauded for keeping up on their students academic performance by checking the athletic eligibility weekly and only playing athletes if they are academically eligible. Students are required to maintain their school work before sports and coaches instill that philosophy as part of their sport program.

No matter what the issue, students athletes will have to work hard to find that balance. After all, being on a sport is something the student chooses to do so if you want to excel on the field as well as in the classroom then you need to take both seriously and not let one take precedence over the other.