SHS Community Debates End of Sports Season “Day Off” from School

SHS Community Debates End of Sports Season Day Off from School

Anna Kelly, Opinion Editor

Student-athletes attend academic classes, team practices, and competitive games for three months during the high school sports season. They can’t afford to take time off—sick days are unfortunate, but taking a mental health day means sacrificing precious playing time. Consequently, some athletes push their needs to the side until the season ends. When it’s over, taking a much-needed break at SHS has included organizing a team breakfast as a last hurrah. Restaurants such as Stars in Hingham and Brant Rock Hop in Marshfield have been popular spots for teams to gather. Not so bad, right? 

Well, let’s say more than 100 student-athletes—15% of the SHS student population–do this together. Let’s say three teams see the need for a day off at the end of the season, getting breakfast, and spending time together–on the same school day. Teachers and administrators might ask themselves, “Where is everyone? Why not get together on the weekend? And what can we do—if anything?” 

This scenario occurred at SHS on Monday, November 14th, following a three-day weekend–and the end of the fall sports season. As student-athletes, teachers, and administrators debate the necessity of sports teams taking a day off, it’s clear there’s no one winner; additionally, there’s no clear solution. 

Athletes feel like they deserve a day off, especially after perfect attendance and the difficult balancing act of school, sports, and friends. With four unexcused absences per term—which many non-athletes enjoy taking advantage of—student-athletes believe they should be able to take a day off without repercussions. They can spend the morning with their teammates to reflect on the season, and the afternoon to work on themselves. 

“It’s not a complete day off,” senior football player Matt Minich argues. “You still have to make up the work. If you compare the attendance of athletes versus non-athletes, you’ll see a huge difference. [Athletes] are here every day September to November.” 

If actions reflect opinions, then approximately 100 fall athletes agree with this sentiment. Administration gets it: “It’s human nature to want to relish in the victory,” said SHS Principal Dr. Lisa Maguire—yet “it shouldn’t be at the expense of academics,” she added.

Rumors of liability concerns were deemed irrelevant to the administration’s stance. Assistant Principal Karen Hughes said, “There’s no liability if the student is excused by their parents.” Additionally, if home is alerted to the absence, that puts student liability out of the school’s realm as well.

However, the biggest reason coaches, teachers, and the SHS administration oppose the idea is for the tone it sets. 

Head basketball coach and middle school social studies teacher Matthew Poirier calls it an “embarrassment.” “If it mattered that you were on this team, in this program, you won’t dishonor it by missing school the next day,” Poirier said. “You got a game jersey, and there’s a name in the front (Scituate) and sometimes the back (family name) too, and you should honor both ALWAYS.”

Head baseball coach and SHS math teacher Craig Parkins shared his perspective: “It’s not a privilege that everybody should have,” Parkins said. “And that’s what it’s morphed into now.”

Mental health days are OK—”if an individual student says they need to take a day, I don’t have a problem with that,” stated Maguire. She drew a distinction between a mental health day and going out to breakfast with your team, saying they are “two completely different things.”

Most faculty agree. SHS history teacher Kristen Emerson said the team “days off” feel “aggressively disrespectful.” “I understand the argument about deserving a day off—I think everyone deserves mental health days—but when [athletes] do it en masse, it makes [teachers] feel like school is less important than sports,” Emerson explained.

It’s a complicated issue, where days off are acceptable individually, but not as a team-wide habit or tradition. Even the school’s history of this unofficial tradition is up for debate—some faculty members say it’s been a “thing” for nearly two decades. Others say it’s fairly recent, within the last 5 or 6 years.

After discussions highlighting teacher and administration perspectives, there’s still no clear answer in sight. Assistant Athletic Director Chris Alves explained, “We’re working with student leaders, reiterating our attendance policy with coaches, and exploring appropriate repercussions.” 

Senior football player Jesse Rees doesn’t see the need for repercussions. “I think it should be addressed that [taking days off as teams] is looked down upon,” commented Rees. “But definitely not any more enforced.”

Instead of hard and fast repercussions, options like team breakfasts at school are being explored. With an in-school celebration, athletes would miss the first block of the school day while reminiscing with their teammates and coaches during a school-sponsored event. Faculty and students would be encouraged to congratulate the team after months of hard work.

Monday, November 14th, was the so-called “straw that broke the camel’s back,” to note a popular cliche. If teams continue to skip school together, community concerns will continue to grow. If harsh repercussions are enacted, then student-athletes will feel like their mental health isn’t important. A compromise may be difficult. Yet, it’s in the best interest of the school community to come to an agreement together. 

“Doing our jobs, going to school, should be the given,” Coach Poirier says. “There’s other things that are more important that we should be focusing on.”