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PREP VOICES : Balancing Act

October 04, 1994

It's student -athlete, not athlete-student. There's no "which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg" question about it.

If a high school athlete doesn't pay sufficient attention to his academics, he won't be an athlete for long. The California Interscholastic Federation and Southern Section high school governing bodies see to that.

The CIF's Constitution and By-Laws state that to be eligible to play sports, a student must, among other things, have "maintained during the previous grading period a minimum of passing grades, which is defined as at least a 2.0 grade-point average in all enrolled courses on a 4.0 scale."

That's the minimum. Individual schools are allowed to impose their own scholastic rules regarding athletic eligibility as long as "they are not less rigid than the minimum requirements of the CIF Southern Section."

And for those looking forward to competing in college, that governing body--the NCAA--has minimum academic entrance requirements and an unforgiving reputation.

Proposition 48, which went into effect in 1986, requires incoming student-athletes to have earned a 2.0 GPA in high school core classes and score a minimum of 700 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test or 17 on the American College Testing examination. The college landscape has been littered with Prop. 48 casualties over the years.

Proposition 16, which takes effect in the 1995-96 school year, will require the same entrance exam test scores as Prop. 48, but raises the minimum GPA to 2.5. However, a student with a GPA as low as 2.0 can offset that with a higher SAT or ACT score.

Proposition 16 also increases the number of required high school core classes from 11 to 13. Core classes, such as math and English, are mandatory for graduation from high school.

So despite the long hours student-athletes put in before and after school practicing their sports, it can all be for naught unless they're also hitting their books.

In the first Prep Voices of the school year, The Times Orange County asks:

"In what ways does playing high school sports affect academic performance?"

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I play varsity tennis for Edison High and it helps me do better in school because after sitting in the classroom for six hours, I have to get some exercise.

I need to breathe the fresh air, get my blood going, and hit the ball as hard as I can to relieve the frustrations and stress from school. I need to get out and see my friends and have some fun. There is no way I could go home and start my homework and studying right after school.

When I come home after practice or a match, I am able to spend the rest of the evening on my work and concentrate better because I have had a break.

Susie Krum

Edison senior

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Athletics emphasizes academics. A college athlete is referred to as a student-athlete. Drawing from personal experience, USC's and UC Santa Barbara's athletic teams had a higher graduation rate than any other group on campus. Mandatory study halls, tutors available nightly, proctors administering tests on the road, players Federal Expressing papers back to USC from Georgetown, and GPA standards regulating eligibility all underline the importance athletics puts on academics.

In regards to high school athletics, coaches, parents and guidance counselors, in my case, continually emphasized the need of high academic performance, SAT scores and core curriculum requirements to be eligible for athletic scholarships.

Tom Danley at Katella High School continually monitored his players' academic standards and routinely disciplined players who did not perform in the classroom.

A member of a high school athletic team is a public figure forced to uphold the reputation of his team and not embarrass himself or his program in the classroom, on the court or off the court. For those high school kids who excel in the classroom and on the field, the reward is going from being a high school athlete to a student-athlete.

Bob Erbst

Katella, Class of '86

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Those involved with athletics, especially in the sports that I coach, are above the normal as far as academic performance goes.

We tend to get the kids who are very bright, very well-disciplined and are very productive in and out of the classroom. That makes sports, particularly cross-country, a very complementary activity for those kids who do well in school because it gives them a high sense of discipline and accomplishment.

Every kid has a great opportunity to accomplish many goals. What transpires on the cross-country course and on the track carries over very well in the classroom.

Gary Gross

Capistrano Valley track and cross-country coach

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Athletics and academics go very well together. Athletics is a good discipline and motivating force in a young person's life. The combination of athletics and academics brings both the mind and the body together in what I consider to be perfect harmony.

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