Gym shouldn’t be required for athletes

Anthony Addante

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Anthony Addante

Track often participates in events which take up a significant part of the day

Athletes are facing a silent, unspoken issue that seems to get glossed over. Simply enough, athletes don’t have much time to do work once they get home, and it’s significantly harming the mental health and productivity of these students. For students in honors and AP level classes, sports and other extracurricular activities they’re effectively punished for being active.

There’s also another issue that athletes face. Gym. Athletes having to take gym classes is redundant for those who already exercise and compete six days a week.

Of course, this isn’t really a District 99 issue. It’s a state requirement that students take gym all four years, and DGS offers an exemption for sports longer than 12 weeks. However, this simply doesn’t do enough.

The workload that students get is extreme even for students who have the time after school. For those with sports, it’s sometimes simply impossible to complete everything and get enough sleep to be fully recharged. Additionally, teenagers aren’t perfect machines that can go to school for seven hours, practice and then go home and do more work. That doesn’t even take into account meals and basic hygiene such as showers.

Teenagers need time to relax and recharge during the day. This toxic culture that high school has created where students always have to be ‘on’ is extremely harmful. Not having the time to relax after a long day of school is untenable for students’ mental health and creates burnout at a rapid rate.

Therefore, having time during the school day to do work is an extremely useful resource for these student athletes. A study hall shouldn’t be considered here. If a student wants to take a class instead of a study hall, they shouldn’t be punished for that decision.

As a result, the only viable option that’s left is to cut gym. It’s a redundancy for students who are already active in athletics. Any sort of leadership experience or other different social intangibles can be built by athletics as well.

Better, even. Being in a team is a special bond that can’t be replicated. Gym is just another classroom environment. Being a leader on a team and rallying the group into competition is a rich experience.

In my experience with Cross Country, I’ve met and made friends with people who I wouldn’t normally see in my day. The friendships that I’ve created are truly special and the sport has allowed for some awesome opportunities.

Being on a team is special, and fostering that should be a priority. The social experiences made through high school is arguably the most important takeaway, and being on a team fosters that in a unique and special way.

Of course, if students want to take gym, they should be free to do so. However, most athletes will find this extra time to work useful for their busy schedules. Also, since the school seems to be moving towards wanting to give students greater autonomy in their day, this would be another outlet for that.

Obviously, District 99 can’t make policies that override State mandates. However, they also have the power to make suggestions on the wider school stage. The district is consistently setting the mark in plenty of areas. Just last year, for example, DGS received a brand new auditorium that truly exemplifies the high bar public education should try to strive for.

It’s perfectly reasonable that DGS should try and pilot a program where all athletes would be able to have a study hall instead of gym. The benefits for student athletes would be tremendous, and it would help athletes to perform their best in competition and in the classroom.