Last January the IACS cheer team arrived at a home game at Notre Dame Academy hoping to perform their halftime routine. They were unsure if they could because they knew some of their teammates were academically ineligible.
Right before the game, the coach told the team they could not perform, recalled member of the Cheer Team Jade King. They had been practicing with all of these girls in their routine. Since it would be too hard to rearrange the routine, the whole team was penalized and they could not perform their halftime show.
Throughout the season the team had girls missing due to grades. This led to great challenges: “When someone misses a game it’s hard to complete our routine because we usually don’t know about grades until the last minute,” said King.
King said this was very challenging and dangerous because they practiced the stunts with the missing people and the people filling in for them may not be as tall, balanced, or experienced.
When it comes to drama it is different. A frequent lead of the plays that was interviewed, but preferred not to be identified, said he has never once had to sit out of a performance because of grades. He said that the teachers and director take grades into consideration when casting, but during the play any grade goes.
On Tuesday, the week Footloose came out, the lead acknowledged he had less than a C in one of his classes. However he was able to perform. “They don’t tell us if your grades are at this point you can’t perform. Right now I think I have a grade below a C and no one’s talked to me about it.”
Drama and Athletics are the two major after school extracurriculars at IACS. They both are great opportunities for students looking for a pastime, something to put on their resumè or something to have fun with.
Our school has a large population of both student-actors and student-athletes. Both extracurriculars require them to do work outside of the activity, be committed and balance a busy lifestyle. However, students in drama and athletics are held to different standards.
The main difference between the expectations in drama versus athletics is the two contracts that you have to sign to join. The Athletic handbook is 22 pages. The drama contract is only one and a quarter pages.
The Athletic expectations go above and beyond the High school’s handbook. All of the requirements are very detailed and there are many. They include all the expectations from the school handbook along with expectations provided from the league the school competes in, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA), and in addition some specific expectations from the athletic department itself.
The handbook lists all the expectations through 8 sections: General, Code of Conduct Policies/Rules Laws, Athletic Seasons, IACS Eligibility rules, Practice & Game Policies, Uniform Equipment and Facility care and Replacement, and Concussion Certification. For each section there are multiple sub-sections.
The Drama contract states the different expectations in a list, such as the expectation on the IACS Student Handbook, in the Footloose actor contract: “I will follow all IACS high school policies, as outlined in the student handbook.” This is its only expectation pertaining to the school handbook, all the rest are specifically drama related. The contract does not go into detail on what the policies are or how they pertain to Drama like Athletics does.
The biggest examples of when the two activities don’t match up are the expectations on grades and how the departments deals with punishments for violations against the school contract.
An actor has never been restricted from performing in the plays because of grades, according to Rhonda Hawthorne, the head of the drama department; there are countless times athletes have had to sit out a competition.
In athletics, “Students must maintain a Grade Point Average of 2.0 or above, and be passing all classes with a minimum of a C to be considered eligible to participate in interscholastic high school athletics. Any students who do not maintain these expectations may be placed on Academic Leave,” reads the Athletic Handbook. When this happens the student gets an email saying they have a week to fix their grade. If they do not bring their grade up the student gets placed on academic leave, meaning they have to sit out competitions and can practice only up to the coach’s discretion.
In drama, all actors can participate unless their teachers let Hawthorne know they need to go to extra help. There is no “academic leave”.
“There’s not a certain number or certain grade. It’s just that if teachers have concerns they let me know,” said Hawthorne. “I’m just in constant communication with the administration and teachers who can tell me if kids aren’t doing well because the policy is that they can go to extra help instead of coming to rehearsal,” she explained.
Actors can also work on their homework when they have time during play practice and are even encouraged too, whereas athletes get no time to do their work at practice, only at home. As a result, “It’s a little bit easier for an actor to keep up with academics than it is for an athlete in terms of hours,” explained Hawthorne. Not only are athletes held to stricter standards for academics, but they have less time to do their academic work. Violations Against School Contract
When it comes to violations against the school handbook athletes get more detailed consequences. Most of the actors’ consequences come from the school administration on school related topics, whereas athletes get the school consequence and a consequence from the Athletic Department. The Athletic Department has three different degrees of punishment with a point system. Each level also has three sub levels for each time an athlete commits an offense.
For example, a level one offense is skipping class. The first time an athlete does it it is a warning and one point towards them. The next time they do it they have to sit out of the game and get one more point against them. The third time they do it they have to sit out of two games and they get more points against them.
All the level one, two and three offences are listed in the handbook and when the offence is greater the consequences and points against them get greater.
The drama contract doesn’t say anything specific about how students get punished. This doesn’t mean their consequences are not as strict. It just does not directly state what happens if an actor misbehaves in their contract. This is a grey area in the contract.
Goals Of The Programs
Both program’s overall goals are not just to win or produce an outstanding play. It is more than that, it is to create better people. Athletic Director Nolan Mckinnon stated: “Students are first and foremost students not athletes. We have a duty to them to make sure they exceed in life; we have had zero professional athletes come out of Innovation Academy.”
Drama expects the students to “have a good attitude, be welcoming to new kids, and try their hardest at everything,” said Hawthorne. This teaches the actors important life skills.
Athletics does the same through its expectations. “Our job is not to create great athletes, our job is to create great people… [by] safely teach[ing] kids how to become better people and make better commitments and understand what that entails,” McKinnon explains.
Both athletics and drama require a significant amount of commitment. The commitment is different, but in the end both sets of students have to dedicate a good portion of their lives to these extracurriculars.
Most athletes have practice from 3–5 p.m every day after school. They also have competitions almost every week. Some teams have the competitions on the weekends and others have them during the week after school.
The actors do not have quite as much practice after school as sports does. They practice on average 2–5 times per week depending on how big their role is and the show; shows with large ensembles require more practice time from all actors. (Refer to graph to see more detailed version of time).
However actors also have to learn all of their lines and music before the play starts and they don’t have much time to do it. “I will memorize all my lines and music over the summer,” says the Footloose Actor Contract.
The actors also do not have much time in between plays. For example, Footloose ended on Saturday November 21 and auditions for the next play were on November 24, which means they had less than a week in between the two, whereas most athletes have a few weeks in between seasons.
Even though the expectations are different there are some parallels in the two activities. Both teach you future life skills and require a huge commitment.
The main differences with the two programs are that athletics are stricter, specifically with what consequences they give due to grades and behavior. Therefore, It may be harder to abide all the rules in sports.
The two programs are so different, which might explain why the expectations are so different. For example the actors only have three performances where the athletes have many competitions.
Is it fair that King had to miss out on performances due to her teammates having less than a C while the leads of drama can still perform? Athletics and Drama are both still extracurriculars. They could create more similar expectations. Athletics could make their regulations less steep, or the drama program could raise their regulations.