Let Clubs Compete

The status of clubs at Andover is contradictory. On one hand, the massive number of specialized and student-run clubs are featured heavily in admissions materials, and this sheer volume of clubs itself is made possible by Andover’s funding and the interest of a faculty advisor. On the other hand, competitive clubs that achieve success in their arenas lack the total support needed to ascend the tiers of competition. As a result, many significant accomplishments of Andover students go unnoticed. The solution is twofold: Andover must recognize current feats of clubs and provide the backing needed to extend that success into higher levels of competitive participation. The time and effort that students put into clubs does not equate to recognition. Many debaters in Philomathean Society spend hours each week honing skills in persuasive speech and preparing to apply this ability at debates. These debaters sacrifice time on weekends in order to travel to other schools and represent Andover admirably. Similarly, athletes train diligently in order to perform optimally and represent our school well. While the success of our sports teams is the subject of much buoyant discussion and duly logged in The Phillipian’s Sports Section, the same is not true of clubs. Trophies and medals are properly displayed around the Borden Memorial Gym and honors in music, art and academics receive well-deserved publicity. Where are the prizes won by Chess Club, Model U.N. and Philomathean? How many people know how well our Math Club is doing in the CML and NEML competitions? The consummation of talent should be appreciated regardless of discipline. Preliminary success does not translate to support for more advanced competition. Model U.N.’s resounding success at Georgetown indicates that its caliber is on a world-scale. Why, then, is there little interest in sending a team to prestigious global conferences, such as the world’s largest at The Hague? Though Andover came in first out of 13 New England peer schools at Deerfield’s Invitational Debate this spring, there is negligible movement toward sending qualified individuals to national or international competitions. Just as our crew team deserves to compete at the Henley Royal Regatta, our teams from our distinguished clubs should be encouraged to participate in prestigious competitions; doing anything less equates to restricting that talent. The most valid argument against sending teams of clubs to compete at far away conferences is the concern over losing valuable time in class. While this is a significant factor, anyone who misses classes, due to sickness or competition far away, is fully aware of the responsibility in making up missed coursework. Certain circumstances, such as recovering from illness or having the opportunity to compete on a world scale, merit excuse from classes because the end result is ultimately rewarding. We are negligent in the duty of nurturing all forms of learning when we waste the opportunity to have qualified debaters represent our school at national or international competitions. We should strive for excellence in all aspects of life, and the school should foster that goal with unwavering support. What makes clubs less significant? They clearly represent a significant amount of time and effort. Is it because they do not fall neatly into the Athletic, Arts and Music Departments? Surely the achievements of student-run clubs should be all the more recognized for not only demonstrating mere mastery but initiative as well. Similarly, if a sports team, scholar or club has exceptional talent, Andover should replace disquietude over missed classes with support for competition at top levels. The end result recognizes the importance all forms of learning and realizes the school’s goal to serve as the plinth upon which pinnacles of achievement may rise.