In defense of Ski/Snowboard Racing Independent Study |

In defense of Ski/Snowboard Racing Independent Study

John Dowlingprogram directorTeam Summit Freestyle

In response to Ruth Hertzberg’s letter to the editor in the April 11 Summit Daily:I coach some of the student-athletes that sports editor Devon O’Neil wrote about in his April 1 Summit Daily News column. I take issue with almost every sentence of Mrs. Hertzberg’s letter, but I’ll refrain from taking too many pot shots at her misguided missive.But what I really cannot stomach is that she impugned the academic record of these students with unfounded suppositions about what kind of courses they elect and even about their admission to colleges (which, by the way don’t even have sports programs for freestyle and snowboard.) Doesn’t she know that Ivy League schools, like Dartmouth, do not grant sports scholarships, even in the sports for which they do have programs?I find Hertzberg’s letter (riddled with speculation and erroneous data masquerading as evidence for her argument/agenda) mean-spirited and belittling to these hardworking students.As O’Neil’s column clearly illustrates, any athletes (or any student at all, for that matter) with high, potentially valedictorian, GPAs have to take advanced placement courses.It’s simply not possible to take just “courses that aren’t very challenging” and maintain that high of a GPA. Indeed, some Ski/Snowboard Racing Independent Study kids are even enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Programme (IB).IB is a demanding pre-university course of study for highly motivated students; an internationally standardized program with rigid criteria for classes and examination.In addition, a number of these student-athletes also attend summer school and/or summer academics camps, not to make up for what they’ve missed, but to bolster their already impressive academic credentials.Alpine, freestyle and snowboard athletes know well that lucrative sports careers are not awaiting them. They know academics are important, that’s why these kids are working so hard at their studies – this was the main thrust of O’Neil’s column.The opening sentence to O’Neil’s column lets the reader know that he’s talking about “some of the smartest kids” at Summit High. These smart kids know that scandalous sports budgets in college and multimillion dollar contracts in professional sports are largely reserved for team sports like football, basketball and baseball.In fact, of all the SRIS athletes, only alpine skiers are even eligible for collegiate sports scholarship programs, since freestyle and snowboarding only exist as club sports at a few colleges. Freestyle and snowboard student athletes apply only for academic scholarships (or scholarship in other non-SRIS sports).If you met with SRIS students and talked with them about what drives them and the schedules they undertake, then I’m sure you’d be daunted. They sacrifice a great deal to do what they do. In addition to their required training time (SRIS students must attend trainings or face expulsion from the program) and their regular homework assignments, many of these kids hold part-time jobs and pursue other extra-curricular activities, such as band, math team or student government. Basically, these kids have time for school, sports and work and that’s it.Driven young individuals like these are not the ones that you have to worry about handling schedules, workloads and deadlines when they enter college. If anything, you have to worry that overachievers like these will drive the slackers and normal people into extinction (or at least make us all look very lazy). While anyone might relish the opportunity to get out of school early (every other day, as is the case for freestyle), not many would be willing to go through the rigors of sport, constant scrutiny from both teachers and coaches, financial duress and all the other constraints these students face.Granted, not all of the kids involved in the SRIS program are at the top of their class. Sure, they all have to maintain a C average in each of their classes, but mostly they’re smart enough to recognize and seize a great opportunity, and that shows some savvy.I would venture that many people here in the county wonder why more kids don’t take advantage of programs like SRIS. The answer is that it’s tough.While Hertzberg posits that certain families take their children out of Summit County schools to attend private schools (a statement which has no direct correlation to the existence of SRIS programs), I rebut that families move to Summit County precisely so their kids can take part in the SRIS programs.In subsequent sentences, when Hertzberg advises that SRIS students should attend a sports academy and that perhaps parents of SRIS students do not care about their son’s or daughter’s education, it is unclear to me whether she’s more concerned with contradicting herself about keeping good students at Summit High or insulting the parents of these students. It disturbs me that Hertzberg could take a feel-good feature like O’Neil’s and turn it into an opportunity to discredit student-athletes in order to propel some kind of anti-sport/SRIS agenda. What is she playing at? What kind of person feels free to question the integrity of some of our best students in the letters to the editor of the Summit Daily? Lest we forget, Hertzberg ran (unsuccessfully) for Summit School Board back in November. The Summit school system should be commended, not condemned, for the programs that distinguish our schools and allow young people to follow their dreams.The SRIS program is not for everybody; but, for those who want it and can meet the criteria, SRIS may be the best of its kind in the country. Summit County and Summit schools are unique for the snow sports opportunities available here.It’s only fitting that our schools and community should find ways to capitalize on our greatest assets and offer our kids great opportunities for education and enrichment. O’Neil deserves thanks for looking beyond the scoreboard stats to portray some of these fine student-athletes and recognize their contribution to the sport and academic community. Devon covers many sport arenas and he never fails to recognize the character of the individuals who make local sports so engaging.

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