High School Athletics and Vacations

By Justin Simms

sportsWhen a vacation is around the corner, many students look forward to going on a trip with their families. Students are excited for a break from schoolwork and the hassle of being a student. They are excited for time to relax, something that most students cannot do while school is in session. Unfortunately, most student-athletes have practice over vacation; therefore, they are unable to go away on a relaxing family trip. Instead, they never get away from the stressful life of being a student.

While school districts and their respective athletic departments deal with the issue of having sports over vacations differently, most districts penalize athletes if they miss a practice or a game. Why should a student be penalized for going on a family vacation? This is the question asked by thousands of student-athletes throughout the country.

Many students who take vacations anyway and miss sports practice and games are penalized. Some students may miss four or five practices, which puts them at a disadvantage for positions and respect on the team. People who want sports practices over vacations say that it shows dedication to the sport or that it helps to improve the team. But sometimes, vacations have been planned for months and celebrate a holiday or a special occasion for a family.

In this world of competition, students load up on rigorous courses, join extracurricular activities, and play sports so that they can be competitive for college. While this is great, it provides a stressful life for the students. Vacation is a time for relaxation, and family vacations should not be discouraged. In fact, they should be encouraged.

Psychology Today reports that, “In a 2009 study, Canadian researchers Joudrey and Wallace reported that ‘active’ leisure pursuits, such as golf, and taking vacations helped to buffer or ameliorate the job stress among a sample of almost 900 lawyers.” This demonstrates why vacations are so important to the well-being of adults, and this knowledge should translate to busy student-athletes as well. This study supports the idea that sports should only be optional over vacation.

While I am not suggesting that sports should be cancelled over vacation, if a student has a legitimate reason for not being able to attend practice over vacation and notifies the coach about it in advance, they should not be penalized. This practical method of handling the situation has been adopted by many schools around the United States, and it has worked great for the students and the schools.

By implementing a policy that is more lenient to players, more students may be attracted to the sport. Also, it may increase the effort of the players while they are at practice.

An example of a school district that has adopted a flexible policy in regards to sports over vacation is Blackstone Valley (Mass.) Regional Technical High School. Their policy states:”a student will be excused from vacation practices if they hand in a note explaining they will be on a trip with their parents two weeks before the vacation.” This new policy has increased the participation in the athletic department, and it has students and families more content.

Overall, students should not be penalized for going on a family vacation. This should be a state-wide decision, not a district decision because coaches aren’t always as lenient and some are “tougher” than others. If students are home and not on a family trip, I feel that there should be some voluntary practices, not practices that will hurt absent players.

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