Obstacles to high school sports are outweighed by benefits

With 28 different sports offered at BG, there are plenty of opportunities for students to be on a high school athletic team, whether they practice in the pool, at the track or on the football field. However, for many students, their four years at BG won’t involve any sports at all. Obstacles to athletic participation can include time commitments, financial barriers or just having too many other responsibilities. But for those who are able to make time in their busy schedules, athletic teams offer the opportunity to make new friends, get into shape and learn lessons that will last a lifetime.

“I got to meet a lot of new friends, and we did a lot of workouts which got me more in shape, which was very important to me,” freshman  volleyball player Jenna Kossnoff said.

It’s to be expected that the number of student athletes at BG can fluctuate from year to year. For example, the 2017-2018 boys’ gymnastics team had 76 participating students, while the 2018-2019 team had only 50. This is especially noticeable when the number of freshmen changes, like for the girls’ cross country team, which had only two freshmen this past year, while the team had seven the year before. 

One major obstacle students cite for participating in school athletics is time. Practices and games can take up large chunks of time that many students may not have. In a poll sent out to the BG student body, 50.9% of students who weren’t involved in an extracurricular said that time was their biggest obstacle, of the 294 students who responded to the survey. So, in order to be involved, athletes must be able to balance their commitments.

“It was a lot at first,” Kossnoff said. “It was hard to get used to and I would stay up really late, but as I progressed it got a lot easier to handle.” 

In the poll, 19% of students responded that needing to focus on school or a job was a major obstacle and 14% of students also cited financial reasons as a barrier. For each student, the reasons for not being involved can vary greatly. However, the school does try to make activities accessible, offering opportunities like fee waivers and athletic buses so that things such as money and transportation don’t hold them back.

“Every student’s life is different and every student’s reasons are different,” girls athletic director Matt Myers said. “What we’re trying to do is support them in every way possible so that they have the opportunity to participate, here, in our sports.”

Some students may also not have participated in their freshman year or not been involved with the activity before, so they feel like they’ve already missed their chance to be involved. Still, with several sports teams that don’t turn away students, there are plenty of opportunities to pick up a sport later in their time as a bison, as sophomore Melanie Pietrowski can attest to after joining girls cross country this year. 

“Everyone was very supportive of each other,” Pietrowski said. “Even if you’re falling behind in the sport, people are very supportive of you.”

Although there may be some obstacles that can make participating in a high school sport difficult, there are also many upsides. According to the poll, some of the main reasons BG students choose to be involved in extracurriculars are to pursue their interests, add to a college application, meet new people and for exercise. Through training, students can get into shape and develop teamwork skills that may benefit them long after they graduate.  Also, since athletes work so closely with their teammates, they can form friendships that extend far beyond their final soccer match or gymnastics meet.

“The social part, being with the girls, was really fun and a really good experience and I’d recommend it for any incoming freshman,” Pietrowski said. “It was nice to meet new people and obviously try a new sport, but it is really difficult if you don’t start training and it’s hard to keep up.”

With so many different opportunities, there is no limit to the unique experiences that students can have as a BG athlete. Everyone has their own reasons they may or may not be involved, but it’s never too late to step up to the plate and give a new activity a try.

“There’s nothing wrong with going out as a sophomore or junior, or even as a senior, to a sport that you haven’t really tried,” Myers said. “I think about cross country, track and field, swimming and water polo, there’s so many different varieties of offerings here at BG. Find your niche, find what you’re interested in and give it a go.”