At Singapore American School, there are many athletic teams an individual can try out for. From volleyball and golf to cross country and rowing, the Athletics Department doesn’t fail to make an athlete’s dreams come true.
But what if a student is banned from participating in a certain sport? For many, that would be a nightmare, and for some, including junior Zoe Adamopoulos, it was almost a reality.
Zoe Adamopoulos is what many people would call “the perfect student.” She manages to balance four AP classes, an executive officer position on Homeland Club, an internship at UN Women, as well as a presidency of the UN Women Youth Team. Not to mention, Zoe is known schoolwide for her amazing tennis talent.
Since the age of five, Zoe has been extremely enthusiastic when it comes to anything tennis-related. After making IASAS two years in a row, and currently going on her third, Zoe recalls her tennis experience at SAS as “incredible.” “Representing SAS at IASAS has been one of the most amazing experiences.”
With a schedule filled with an array of service clubs and extracurricular activities, it’s hard to believe that Zoe would be able to fit any other activity in her life. However, Zoe continued to push the boundaries when she tried out not only for tennis her freshman year, but volleyball as well. “I started playing volleyball in 7th grade because it seemed very fun!”
“Initially, I said I was okay [with playing volleyball],” she said. “However, that night, I talked to my parents, and they just said I’d be better off spending my time during volleyball season to get ready for tennis.”
Like Zoe, many students at SAS feel this same pressure when it comes to balancing both academics and athletics. Should I really take this extra AP course? Can I really handle two sports? These questions constantly arise for students in many different grade levels. When it comes to athletics, it seems as though the pressure only builds, possibly as a result of the Athletic Department’s rules.
According to last year’s student athletic handbook, “Players quitting a team after having been selected for that team will be told (prior to tryouts) that their quitting will result in a ban from participation in SAS athletics for the next season.”
In other words, according to last year’s policy, if a student wanted to try out for soccer, but ended up quitting after they made the team, this student would automatically not be able to try out for a second season sport, like basketball.
This was the case for Zoe, and as a dedicated tennis player, the thought of not playing tennis the following season was a nightmare. After all, she’d been playing for most of her life and had already made the team for IASAS. In spite of her parents’ and her own concerns, she ultimately stayed on the volleyball team and was able to play tennis the following season.
When other students discovered this rule, many, like Zoe, couldn’t help but feel angered by it. They questioned the Athletics Department: is it justifiable to deny a student the chance to play a sport when there are valid reasons to quit?
Cosette Koh, a junior at SAS, was among the students who felt strongly about the rule. “I understand it to a certain extent, but if they have a good reason to quit, then I think it’s ridiculous.”
On the other hand, other students expressed that the rule had some benefits. Junior Lexa Risjad was similarly affected by the rule when she questioned if she’d be able to balance academics and her role on the high school softball team. “I actually ended up enjoying [softball] and if I were to quit, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to continue my softball experience, and it would have been a shame because I ended up really loving it.”
However, the Athletics Department decided to alter the rule this year, noting in the SAS Athletics Handbook, “For the 2015-2016 school year, any student quitting a team will be banned from playing that same sport the following year.”
In an interview, Kim Criens, Director of the Athletics Department, talked about the reasoning behind the creation of the rule in the first place. “It’s not fair to the kids that get cut entirely that kids who do get selected for a team elect to not play simply because they don’t like which team they’re on,” he said. “Even if they have a great reason, tell me that great reason before I tell another kid, because this other kid would have died to make any team.”
As for the new revision of the rule, he said, “We saw this incredible rate of players who were dissatisfied with the team they were selected on.” He continued, “Banning the student from participating in the following season wasn’t a big enough deterrent.”
Mr. Criens discussed how students who didn’t make the team they wanted would then “game it,” or in other words, after quitting, use their season suspension on a sport they had no interest in, in order to play the sport they had previously quit in the future.
“Let’s say a kid played volleyball (a first season sport),” Mr. Criens said. “What if they didn’t play a second season sport, but they played badminton (a third season sport)? So this kid who quit volleyball knew that if he came to badminton tryouts, they’d tell him he couldn’t play. So instead he picked tennis (a second season sport).”
Mr. Criens explained that last year’s suspension applied only for one season, so students began to use that one suspension on a sport they didn’t care about. Therefore, they could try out for a sport the following season if they wanted to.
Zoe shared her reaction to the adjustments of the rule, stating, “I think that that was a smart move because the rule really restricted athletes, especially in the sense that quitting a sport would jeopardize another, completely different sport.”
Whether a student quits out of academic stress or quits purely out of dissatisfaction for not making the team they originally wished to make, they are still making an impression on coaches. Mr. Criens stressed, “Nobody likes quitters. Once a student has demonstrated that they quit a sport, all coaches the next season are very mindful of that.”