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Student-Athlete Attendance Anxiety

Catherine Bowman, Features Editor

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Attendance at sports practices has been a long standing issue at Presentation. Students face the dilemma of trying to juggle their rigorous course schedules with an often full-time commitment to a team, as well as outside commitments for jobs, community service, and appointments.

Because of these demands, it is understandable that students would be annoyed with the often strict attendance policies put into place by the athletic department. While regular attendance at practice is clearly important in building a winning team, some students find the attendance requirements onerous.

Some of the sports teams allow for as few as three absences over the course of a four-month season and then a person is given a warning and eventually kicked off the team. With the expectations put into place by the school for academics and service, students often find themselves needing to miss practice, but are unable to for fear of jeopardizing their spot on the team.

At first glance, the attendance policies appear stringent. However, the coaches only have the best interest of their athletes in mind, and often they make are willing to compromise or discuss the issue as long as the athlete comes to talk to them. Student athletes need to realize this and take it upon themselves to make sure their schedules are not too rigorous and they can still commit fully to their team.

The sports teams at Presentation only allow absences for emergencies or illness, and usually school sponsored activities. Some teams, like the track team, do not require students to practice over school breaks, but it is strongly suggested if the student wants to continue to improve. Other teams, like softball and swim, require practice over breaks.

Clearly, the coaches and the athletic department did not implement these attendance policies to spite the students. They are trying to benefit the team as a whole, and if a student is not committed, the whole team suffers, as well as the individual athletes.

Catherine Aquino, a coach for the track team, gives one reason for not allowing students to miss excessive practices: “It’s partly an injury issue, that if you’re sporadic with your practicing then you invite injury. But it’s also about building camaraderie and sportsmanship. The girls work really hard out there, so it’s great to have them out there.”

According to Aquino, attendance is a very complex and difficult matter because the track team is large and many of the athletes participate in multiple events within the team. In addition, the coaches are responsible for the students while they are at practice, so if a student does not come to practice, the coaches cannot make sure she is safe.

The attendance policies are not necessarily always black and white. Aquino explains that when athletes practice regularly, their improvement becomes obvious during meets: “The more we move towards becoming more and more competitive, the more serious we are as a team, in a sense the less I have to worry about [attendance] because when students train year-round, they’re in shape, they’re dedicated, and they know what they’re doing and it doesn’t matter if they miss here and there.”

To students, it seems like the attendance policies for track are restricting their freedoms and causing more stress, but the coaches behind this are simply trying to keep their athletes healthy, safe, and working to more easily meet their goals.

The softball team has similar attendance policies as the track team. Athletes are expected to come to practice every day, Monday through Friday, even during break, except if they are sick or have an emergency. School sponsored events and retreats are excused, but the coaches prefer the athletes to attend these things in the off season rather than forgoing practice time.

Coach Kevin Saldivar talks about why these policies were put into place: “Participating in athletics is a privilege, not a right, and a very serious commitment in both time and energy. Student-athletes at Presentation have to make sacrifices that most students don’t have to make, so we like to make that as clear as possible up front.”

As with all sports teams at Presentation, the softball team is not trying to cause stress or disadvantage their athletes. They are simply looking out for the good of the team and making sure that the athletes are committed and prepared to work hard for their spot.

Senior softball player Kiana McCaul explains that while the policies are strict, her coaches are also willing to do what they can to make sure every student has success on the team while juggling their other commitments. “Myself and two other people on my team are modeling for Fashion Show. We told [our coach] from the beginning that there were dates we had to miss. He was very accommodating and even moved games around so we could attend,” McCaul says.

As attendance policies go, the swim team has one of the most progressive systems of the Presentation sports teams. The swim team has a “bank” where athletes can accumulate points for excused absences, and they can then use these days in their bank for whatever reason they need to miss practice.

Coach Marisa Watts explains that each athlete on the team is given two absences when they join the team. From then on, there are various opportunities to gather more absence credits for their bank: “If your parents go to the mandatory parent meeting, that they’re supposed to go to anyway, then you get another one in the bank. If you order your swimsuit by the deadline, you get another one in the bank. There are 10 or 11 this season that you can possibly get to ‘bank up.’”

By using this system, Watts says the girls are able to “take control of their own program.” This method allows the swimmers to take off days that are needed, reducing stress, but also holds them accountable for those missed days.

In addition, Watts explained that things like retreats, Urban Plunges, student council and other school related activities are excused as they are school endorsed. In general, the swim attendance policies are a great model that more individual sports like track should consider following.

While many students point to the swim team’s policy as one that should be adopted by all sports, the individual nature of swim makes it difficult to implement for other teams. For example,  if one person misses practice in a team based sport like softball, the whole team suffers.

The question student athletes must ask themselves is whether they are overloading themselves with school and commitments to their sport. Coaches have good reasons for making these policies to prevent injury, maintain competition level, and benefit the good of the team. Why should the team be compromised because one student has signed up for too much?

To be sure, Presentation has recently made strides to better the mental health of students by implementing Student Wellness Days and advocating for a less stressful environment. Therefore, if policies for attendance at sports practices are too strict, student stress increases and Pres fails in its goal to make a more stress-free environment for their students. Presentation as a whole needs to support and listen to the needs of their student athletes in order to meet their goal of reducing the stress of the entire student body.

However, student athletes must also consider the responsibilities they have taken on, and try to make their schedules work with their role on the team. Teachers and coaches alike try their best to be as lenient and accommodating as possible, so stressed student athletes should not blame their coaches for their stress.

The important thing for players to keep in mind is that they chose to join the sport, and even though it might be hard to juggle commitments, if they really love the sport, then maybe some sacrifices are worth it.

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Student-Athlete Attendance Anxiety