It first hit me in freshman year. Nothing could top my sheer excitement to try out for a high school basketball team and nothing could quell my pure determination. As a result, the first meeting came as that much more of a surprise.

As I trudged through classroom doors and into my first freshmen basketball meeting, I was greeted with kind faces, seemingly as excited as I was. For most of the meeting, everything, including 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. practices every school day, seemed normal. It didn’t cross my mind for even a second that the fact that I would have to miss Wednesday practices for Hebrew class, which I get school credit for, would prevent me from trying out for the team.

I explained to the coach that I would have to miss practice just once a week. In a joking yet inadvertently offensive manner, he told me to switch to Spanish or understand my chances of making the team wouldn’t be very high.

This problem is not rooted in the laziness of students, but rather in a lack of consideration for the well-being and capacity of a student

As the students of the Class of 2022 begin their labor-intensive and self-growth- oriented high school careers and, the older classes settle into heavier workloads, an issue resurfaces once again — the moment when students ask themselves, “Is it worth it to play my sport this year?” For many, the answer is no.

This problem is not rooted in the laziness of students, but rather in a lack of consideration for their well-being and capacities to juggle multiple activities. Even with proficient time management, many students simply do not have enough hours in the day to accomplish everything they should be able to.

Time and time again, students like myself are forced to give up on the sport they have played and enjoyed due to the irrational standards that coaches have for students.

Because of the one practice a week I would have had to miss, I was discouraged from even trying out. Situations like these, coupled with players losing game-playing privileges for missing winter break practices and other unreasonable expectations, prevent invested high school students from pursuing the sports they love.

In a district continuously striving to reduce academic stress, is it fair that students aren’t able to pursue sports that help them decompress because of their academic workload and extracurriculars? Is it fair that families are told to stay home for vacations because, if they don’t, their children will be sent to the sideline? Is it fair that for the more competitive sports at Paly, this trend is not only prominent, but in my experience, seemingly unavoidable?

Senior Eyal Cohen had to quit wrestling because otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to participate in his youth group and excel in academics. Sophomore Lana Purdy was forced to quit playing the flute because of the time commitment required for Paly volleyball. Senior Julie Meng chose to quit track and field because otherwise she wouldn’t have time to invest in Paly’s Science Olympiad team.

Just as I don’t have a schedule that permits practice five times a week, neither do these students or, for that matter, many students who enjoy sports at Paly.

The notion that a prep period alone can compensate for the overall loss of time consumed by playing a school sport is just unrealistic. The simple fact is that four hours a week of unstructured time during which students barely have the ability to outsource help doesn’t even come close to solving the problem that 10 or more hours of practice a week create.       

Ultimately, we must get our priorities straight. The ability to balance an academic workload with off-campus opportunities such as community service, youth groups and family trips is just as valuable to a student’s well-being if not more so than intense commitment to just one sport. I refuse to accept that the culture that forced me out of my sport persists, and the Paly administration must not accept it either.    v