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Sharing Students in Athletics and Performing Arts

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA on October 13, 2015 hst Print

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In education-based athletic programs, a broad-based participation rate is an extremely desired objective. After all, you want as many young people to gain the values, develop life-long qualities and benefit from the experience as possible. A problem may occasionally arise, however, if a student is forced to choose between being on an athletic team and also taking part in one of the performing arts offerings.

In part, this decision may be forced upon a student due to scheduling conflicts between the two choices. There also could be some pressure placed upon an athlete by a coach for him or her to make a commitment to a team. The explanation would possibly include the idea that dual participation would spread the young person’s time too thin and academics would suffer.

Academics always have to be the first priority, but developing good time management skills can also help to avoid potential problems of meeting classroom requirements and maintaining a busy schedule. Therefore, adult leaders – athletic administrators and principals – may need to become involved in finding solutions when a student desires to participate in both athletics and performing arts during a particular season. While give and take and creativity will be necessary, it can and should be possible for students to do both.

The following considerations on the part of school administrators may help to allow students to participate in both athletics and performing arts.

  • Establish a culture – a policy if needed – within the school that pressure cannot be applied to a student to give up other activities in order to participate on a team.
  • Communicate, reinforce your expectations and monitor your coaching staffs to make sure that they do not create hurdles for their athletes to take part in other activities and offerings within the school.
  • Reschedule the start times of contests in order to accommodate several athletes being able to also participate in an evening music or theatrical program. In the case of junior varsity–varsity double-header contests, see if you can flip which level goes first. If you explain the dilemma to the athletic administrator of the opposing school, many will be glad to do their part and help. Of course, you do need to reciprocate if they make a future request. It also helps if the director of the activity – the band, play or musical group – gives you notice of the conflicts prior to the start of the season.
  • Communicate with and educate the directors of performing arts activities that while you will do your best to change start times and possibly reschedule games, this pertains to the regular season. Making changes to state playoff contests cannot be altered because all schools within your classification in the state and their schedules would be affected. The dates and venues are usually scheduled months or years in advance.
  • Allow for alternative transportation – even when your policy includes that all team travel must be done on bonded carriers – by parents in order to leave a contest immediately at its conclusion. By doing this, the young person may be able to return for an evening performance at school.
  • In the event of an unavoidable or unsolvable scheduling snafu, help serve as a mediator to resolve the conflict. As you would in any similar situation, maintain a fair balance between the athletic team and the performing arts program.
  • Always take the stance that all decisions will be based on what is best for the student and everything will be done to enhance his or her total educational experience. Take note, that neither athletics nor performing arts has the priority in these conflicts. The young person occupies that position.
  • Ask the student what his or her preference is if an impossible scheduling situation occurs. This keeps with the point that everything should be done in the best interest of the young person. Allow the student to make the decision.

In education-based programs, which include athletics and performing arts, the No. 1 objective always has to be the development and welfare of students. It becomes the responsibility of administrators, therefore, to ensure and facilitate this concept. Young people can and should be able to participate in both athletics and performing arts without pressure or fear of reprisals.
By the way, as an additional or ancillary benefit, coaches who attend performances that include their athletes will have the opportunity to see them in an entirely different light. This can lead to a much greater appreciation for their talents and their ultimate development into outstanding individuals.