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The LEAP Student Blog

"The Price of Equitable or Equal" by Aidan Perales, Burlington-Edison HS
 3/16/2021 12:00:00 AM

Aidan Perales
Burlington-Edison High School, Class of 2022
“Provide access to equitable, fair, and diverse activities.” is one of the WIAA Core Principles, but sometimes fair and equitable are hard to create without holding others back. Every year when the WIAA releases their proposed amendment I take a look, out of both curiosity and concern, I ask myself how will this look on the field, on a team, for different athletes, athletes of color, LGBT athletes, and more but this year I looked at them from being on the LEAP committee and wondering how the rules represent every student-athlete. 

Rule 18.23.1 stuck out to me, also known as the participation rule, saying “Schools may not give students special treatment or privileges on a regular basis to enable them to participate in non-school athletic activities. Some examples of special treatment or privileges include reduced practice times, special workouts, late arrivals, early dismissals or missing a practice or contest. Regular is defined as being more than once.” I’d seen it before back in October when an AD asked the definition of regular be removed for the given school year due to an overlap in Club and School Volleyball. I remember telling the Board it seemed like a safety issue and could lead to overworking of athletes, and could create an unlevel playing field by prioritizing Club athletes. I also thought to myself why volleyball should be given special treatment when so many other sports dealt with their Club and school overlap such as swimming which for many Clubs begins their season the same as Girl’s swim and enters their championship season at the same time as Boy’s swim. The motion ended up failing and the rule remained as is. 

This year a proposed amendment was sent by the same AD stating “Changes the definition of “regular” from no more than once to no more than once per week”. The change is said to allow more student-athletes to continue their involvement in education-based athletics and provide more flexibility for students whose schedules conflict. Though, during Winter Coalition the main reasoning I heard was vastly different within an example being an athlete visiting a college and missing practice which seems to fall more under an attendance rule which doesn't count as negative until three in a row. Another example is a full missed practice for national events which would seem to be fully missed practices again and fall under attendance and not modified participation to accommodate Club practices. 

Diving into the rule the difference between athletes, being the Club athletes who do both High School and Club sports, and the school athletes who just compete in High School is important to define. Though both athletes come from vastly different backgrounds, the Club athlete has year-round experience but also has paid for it means they are from an economic class that can afford it. A High School athlete, on the other hand, could be anybody, due to interscholastic sports being one of the only close to free opportunities in athletics for youth.

This change brings to question the principle of equity and its importance. This change would mean a Club athlete could have their practices adjusted on Fridays for weekend meets, they’d be able to miss a meet or two solely to go compete for Club qualification times. But, It would also mean if a Club coach had high intensity, technical workout planned that can not be offered by a High School, they could adjust their High School practice to participate and get that edge on their competition in both organizations. 

But as they do better in both, negatives come out such as a varsity spot they stole from another student who can't afford Club, and yes stole would be the word, because who could define them doing Club, and someone else doing only High School as anywhere near fair or equitable. Equity means  that everybody is brought to a level playing field, and if you allow Club athletes an advantage then you are unbalancing the playing field, and prioritizing the Club athlete to the High School athlete. 

A change would also mean an unmonitored, and unruled communication between Club coaches and High School coaches would surely form, and when push goes to shove, which coach is protected when one wants something from the other. In smaller schools with dual athletes that have coaches under a single school district, there's an easy way for the students' safety to be a priority, but for a High School and Club coach, there is no one to keep sides in check from conflict and pressure on the athlete. The safety and overtraining of an athlete can become a large factor when each coach feels entitled to their time and commitment of the athlete.  

Classism and racism also play a large factor in athletes and Club athletics. Club sports cost money and demographically speaking white families make on average $89,632, whereas Hispanic or Latino Families make $68,319 and Black families $10,000 less at $58,985. So who can afford Club sports, and who will be skipping practice for private training to take the varsity spots from people who can't afford the training?

Does this mean that athletes of color won't be as represented on varsity teams, and at state and district tournaments due to students who can afford Club sports being able to bend the teams to their Clubs and take a varsity spot due to economic privilege. Will these ideas contribute to systemic racism and hold back athletes who would have had a chance to athletically showcase themselves to get a scholarship for extracurricular activities and go to college and break out a broken system that so often holds them back with rules designed to aid those already ahead?

The question for the rule becomes do you play equal and allow Club athletes to have their advantages and private training that the school has to bend around or do you play fair and equitable by holding all athletes to a single playing field to not provide a higher advance to economic classes and contribute to systemic racism? And how important is the WIAA Core Principle of equitable and fair activities?

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March 2021

3/18/2021 "Maintaining Tiger Pride" by Antonio Hernandez, Stadium HS
3/16/2021 "The Price of Equitable or Equal" by Aidan Perales, Burlington-Edison HS
3/2/2021 "Giving at Grandview" by AuLani Benitez, Grandview HS

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