The Problem with PG’s: Is One Year Enough?

It’s Andover-Exeter and the crowd is going wild for the star wide receiver who just caught the game-winning touchdown. Sometimes Andover SuperFans are able to say they suffered with him through the History 300 term paper, they screwed around in Rockwell together or they took him to Sadie way back when he still played JV. More often however, the star wide receiver is a post-graduate, just a face under a helmet to some, just another body in a jersey. I feel that the school should focus its efforts on recruiting younger athletes. By enveloping our star athletes in the full Andover experience, we will prevent our athletic program from devolving into a rotating mercenary corps. This is not to say that I despise the idea of PG’s or that I believe they should be eliminated. In fact, there are a number of myths purported by the student body that should be dispelled. Myth: PG’s don’t gel with their teammates. Fact: the vast majority of post-graduates fit extremely well into the team; to quote post-graduate quarterback Bryan Farris, “After only a couple weeks, it felt like I knew [these guys] for a couple years.” Myth: PG’s only talk to one another. Fact: Farris again explains, “Having all my teammates as instant friends made it easier for me to branch out when school started.” However, our use of PG’s has bred resentment from some of our rival schools. To quote Candy Henry ’08 from Phillips Exeter Academy, Andover won because it had “more…better [PG’s].” She continued, “You guys still won [Andover-Exeter], but I’m sure it helped that you guys had a lot of PG’s.” Throughout the league, however— Ms. Henry noted—many schools, including Exeter, rely on post-graduates for their athletic success. Andrew Pohly ’09, a starter on the Varsity Football team, noted that post-graduates are “necessary to remain competitive” in this football league. The same extends to other sports; hockey Captain Andrew Cox ’08 agreed with Pohly’s statements. “We bank on them, and it’s hard to stay strong from year to year without at least some PG’s.” Sometimes this, however, can be a problem. One alumni, Jonathan Gruskin ’07 noted, “That’s one thing I didn’t like about New England prep football. Sometimes it just seemed that success came down to how many PG’s a school had.” Problems could develop with an excessive recruiting drive. Pohly notes how some schools just “stack teams full of post-graduates.” This could lead to problems when programs devolve into a system of “hired guns” and potentially hurt developing young players. Pohly comments, “You can practice all you want, but if you don’t apply it in a game situation, it’s worthless.” Cox furthered that “My Lower year, we had a lot of Seniors on the team, and some of the PG’s were extremely selfish.” Cox pointed out, however, that “selfishness isn’t limited to PG’s” and that his Lower year experience isn’t necessarily indicative of everyone’s perspective. For example, he said, “This year’s kids are not presumptuous at all, and they are some of the best kids I’ve played hockey with.” Pohly elaborated, saying “The proportion of PG’s you like on the team is probably the same as it is to the rest of the team. It’s just like adding members to the Senior class.” Pohly expounded on some of the benefits of post-graduates, saying “Last year, a PG took me under his wing, and I know for a fact it made me better.” Cox mentioned also how in a long hockey season, with some 20 games played during the short Winter Term, Juniors and Lowers can wear out under all the stress, and that PG’s “really are more durable” and are necessary to carry the team through the season. I personally believe that one year simply is not enough time to spend with my school’s sports stars. Gruskin mentions former hockey Captain Joe Smith ’07, whom he felt the class really identified with: “Sure he was a year older than everyone else, but he came in his freshman year and really went through Andover with us; Upper year and everything.” I hope the school will make a more concentrated effort to bring in younger athletic recruits; repeats, who would be the same age as a PG their Senior year, but, like Joe Smith, would have experienced Andover with the rest of us. That way, we receive the positive benefits of not only having top-notch athletes and remaining competitive in the athletic arena, but also long-term bonding with those athletes, instead of only having a year to get to know them.