A recent article in the MenomoneeFalls Patch, Should High School Athletes be Allowed to Switch Teams to Serve Out Penalties?, highlights a possible situation that is not exclusive to just the Menomonee Falls high school athletic populous. It’s likely a scenario that’s been played out at a variety of high schools in many other areas across the country.
As Jessica McBride puts it to question in the above piece:
Should Menomonee Falls High School athletes who are serving a school-imposed penalty for violations of the athletic code be allowed to switch to a new sport during the penalty phase?
Me, I would expand that question to include all high school athletes, anywhere, and not limit it to just Menomonee Falls student athletes.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you are a football player (football being your primary and favorite sport) and you get caught say…drinking after football season and are promptly suspended from athletic competition for your next competitive season, that if you quickly try out for another athletic activity, you can serve your suspension right away and fully salvage your next football season.
It is a loophole inherent in many high school athletic codes, and athletic systems, and one that some (at least those without proper direction) will try to take advantage of, thus, removing the lesson that was to be learned. Not a very good thing.
From my perspective, allowing athletes to circumvent “the rules” in situations like this is a mistake needing to be rectified. That is if we want to encourage a more positive lifelong learning experience through participation in high school sports.
One solution would be to require the suspension be served in the athlete’s most predominant season, and if they are a two- or three-sport athlete with equal predominance in their sports, then the suspension must be served in the subsequent more prevalent season. Trying out for a new sport and serving their suspension in that new sport would not be allowed. Oh sure, they could try out, and compete in, a new sport. But the suspension would have to be served in the more prevalent sport.
The whole idea here is to have the kind of consequence that discourages future poor character decisions on the part of the athlete, not to allow ways for athletes to minimize the significance of that consequence.
There is never going to be a perfect solution or perfect system; however, allowing the kind of flexibility that many current athletic codes do allow (as discussed in the referenced piece) diminishes the lessons to be learned and character that can be built.