Is Practice Getting Out of Hand?

Students are spending more time in the world of RHS outside of the regular academic day as sports continue to extend long hours after school, on the weekends, and sometimes before school starts in preparation for the fall season. Even though RHS excels across the board in fall, winter, and spring sports – success that is a testament to the long hours of practice – the intense commitments beg the question of how much practice is too demanding.

With practice starting after Period 9 and most practices ending within the 5 PM to 6 PM window, there is a good balance between school and sports, even though athletes are sometimes excused early for games or meets. However, performance days may extend longer than that, as athletes arrive back to the high school well beyond sunset. Various trips to train or compete can last multiple days as well, taking students out of school. Baseball’s preseason training in Florida and Track & Field’s cross-country trip to the Arcadia Invitational in Arcadia, California includes some of the many overnight athletic commitments that student-athletes pursue.

But how much practice is too much, on a day-to-day level? Students frequently sacrifice sleep and stay up well into the night to finish schoolwork, but is that the result of too much practice? Would less practice, in order to create more time for schoolwork, sacrifice the tradition of excellence that RHS Athletics enjoys?

In my opinion, standard, daily practice should last no longer than 90 minutes. Anything longer than this is disruptive to a student’s work and sleep schedule, as well as physical wellbeing. Specifically, members of the crew team devote four to five hours to commuting to practices and workouts each day. On their race day each Sunday, they are typically expected to be on a bus around four in the morning and return back to Ridgewood around seven at night. Rowers are aware of the commitment that the sport requires, but they often share how they feel overwhelmed and discouraged when it comes to studying. Although this year round sport is not sponsored by RHS athletics, they are confident that they would be in a much better mental state if their practices were even one hour less than what they currently are.

A shorter practice time affords students with a set amount of time each night alloted for schoolwork and ensures that no student is disadvantaged from participating in a sport that takes up more time than another sport. In addition to the time benefit, this amount of time would also work in conjunction with the Ridgewood High School wellness program. If a student has is lifting in the Fitness Center during his or her Strength and Conditioning class, that student should not feel over exerted before attending a long and physically taxing practice. Less practice time could mean, well, less practice, but it could also decrease the prevalence of injuries, as athletes won’t be over-exhausting their bodies each and every day.

This rule should not apply for days with games and meets; it is unreasonable to think that away days, requiring bus transportation, should only last an hour and a half. For example, a regulation soccer game lasts 80 minutes, plus halftime and warmups. On performance days, athletes should expect to get home later and manage their time accordingly. Regular practice, however, should be held to some standard to create some form of predictability.

With many coaches stressing the importance of education in conjunction to athletics, as well the RHS policy of a minimum GPA in order to participate, the emphasis on an athlete’s life outside of practice lies not only on his or her sport. A set limit for practice time would greatly help in achieving a stable balance between the academic and athletic sectors of the RHS student experience.

Luca Richman
staff writer

Graphic: Eddie O’Keefe

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