Commentary

Flexing Our Responsibility Muscles

We must constantly ask ourselves why we came here. Did we come to be pushed to our limits or to have the opportunities and resources to push ourselves? Before we can properly evaluate Andover’s purpose, we need to be clear in our own minds about how much stimulation we need to succeed and how much self-motivation we already possess. I am convinced that we were accepted here because the admissions officers saw a spark in each of us — a desire to learn, to improve and to grow. We were attracted to Andover because of the many resources and learning experiences it provides. We bring the motivation to excel, Andover provides the means. With this in mind, the Academy occasionally fails to recognize our own initiative to become well-rounded individuals and nudges us firmly when we do not need to be prodded. An example of this is the athletic requirement. As exceptionally responsible, motivated young adults, students, especially upperclassmen, should not be required to participate in athletics. Sports should be an option which we pursue in the way we participate in non-mandatory clubs. The idea behind the sports requirement is that all students, even unathletic ones, should be pushed to broaden their horizons and remain involved in athletics. This is an understandable goal for lowerclassmen. When students enter Andover, it is beneficial for them to experience opportunities here that they would not otherwise pursue. The requirement compels a Junior who never played a sport in his or her life to try something and possibly develop a life-long, healthy habit. Perhaps, in his or her first two years at Andover, a student discovers an unknown passion for tennis. This would be a valuable manifestation of the athletic program. However, by Upper or Senior year, many students know whether they enjoy athletics or not. Students have tested the waters at Borden; maybe they found their sport, maybe they didn’t. At this point in our Andover career, we have learned to manage our time and priorities and we have grown significantly since our setting foot on campus. Especially with our increasingly busy schedules, our time grows more precious. Uppers and Seniors should have the option not the requirement of participating in a sport. Students at Andover are interested in self-improvement; why else would we be here? Many of us would opt to participate in athletics on our own. Membership on the Varsity and Junior Varsity teams would remain constant if the athletic requirement were revoked simply because of the high number of athletes who simply enjoy sports on campus. Even those who are not team-oriented would likely work out. The fitness center is regularly filled with students after classes. Clearly there is no lack of fitness initiative on campus. Regardless of our athletic motivation, at this stage in our lives, we are mature enough to choose whether we exercise or not. Information abounds about the health benefits of fitness. We are well-informed young adults; hopefully we will make healthy choices, but even if we don’t, we have and will continue to accept the consequences of our actions. Clubs and other organizations are not mandatory at Andover. They are offered to us, and we are permitted to pick and choose our interests. High enrollment in clubs is a testament to Andover student initiative and interest. Clubs are not mandatory, but we participate anyway. Why should sports be any different? Does this school mean to suggest that it is more important for every person on this campus to chase a ball around a field than to pursue the areas that generally appeal to each individual? Fitness is important to our health, but so is mental stimulation in the form of art, debate, music and writing,. Part of the Andover experience is learning to prioritize, and students quickly learn that they cannot participate in every club. Sports and fitness should be regarded in the same way. We should be allowed to rank athletics on our own priority list; fitness should not be ranked for us at the top as a requirement. Students could do a lot with the afternoon free time if the school eliminated the sports requirement. We have homework, clubs, community service, and the other interests we choose to pursue. Many students would continue to devote the time to athletics or some form of fitness. Sometimes, on a beautiful spring day, there is nothing more soothing than a run in the sunshine…it certainly beats crowding into a gloomy, sweating room in Pearson to do yoga. Andover has always been an athletically oriented school, sometimes at the expense of other opportunities. Sport competitions win the school prestige, and colleges highly regard athletic participation. But the school should not force students to participate in sports for its own benefit. Ultimately, we know what is best for us, and we will do what serves our own interest. We do not need Andover to tell us how to live our lives. When we leave Andover, there will be no athletic requirement. We will be forced to rank fitness in our priority list. Our own choices will matter most, and it won’t matter whether our high school forced us to spend an hour a day playing squash. If we can practice a self-initiated healthy lifestyle here, chances are, we will continue it on our own.