By Ian C. Beck ’12 & Tyler J. Scott ’12
This win-or-go-home attitude has extended from the surreal world of Hollywood action comedies to the all-too real world of high school athletics.
Brophy is seen by many as an athletic powerhouse. Visitors who enter the Robson Gymnasium will see the multitude of championship banners that plaster the interior of the gym like red and white wallpaper.
But with such levels of success comes an expectation to win that has its drawbacks for student athletes today.
“With the ever-expanding sports program here and the ever-expanding expectations for winning, I think therein comes a very delicate balance of what is too much and then it can become a situation where athletes can get burnout,” said head athletic trainer Mr. Chris White.
He described burnout as a condition where athletes can get physically and mentally tied toward the end of their season.
Mr. White said that he often sees cases of overuse injuries and burnout because students are working out all year long.
He also said he often sees cases where athletes hide their injuries so they can continue playing.
“They’ve invested so much time and energy, more than ever in the history since I’ve been here, so sometimes they’re reluctant to report injuries … they don’t want to have to sit out,” Mr. White said. “And what happens is injuries can inevitably get worse and then they have to miss more time.”
In the eyes of Mr. White, the biggest problem that faces high school sports at Brophy is the current lack of boundaries for student athletes.
“We have high expectations to win at this school,” he said. “Here is the challenge: There’s no boundaries being set, that’s the number one problem. The AIA hasn’t set boundaries for training year round; we don’t set them because everyone’s training year round so we feel that to be competitive we have to do that.”
Varsity baseball coach and counselor Mr. Tom Succow said the demands are high for student athletes, but coaches have a responsibility to keep the well-being of their athletes in mind.
“In order to compete against the competition we play against day in and day out whether it be a Friday night football game, during the week in baseball, during the week in basketball, I think demands need to be put on student athletes but a balance needs to be certainly in the mind of the coach,” Mr. Succow said.
Mr. White said there is a fine line between making an athlete physically and mentally tough and going overboard to where the stress levels cause students to compromise sleep, eat poorly and simply get run-down.
Defensive lineman Justin Bessant ’12 plays on the varsity football team while balancing Advanced Placement and honors classes.
He said most days during the season he does not start homework until 8 p.m. and is up until 11:30 p.m.
“Typically I’m really tired and just want to go to bed but I still have a lot of homework to do. I just try not to think about being tired and just get my work done,” Bessant said.
Bessant added that coaches often try to pair up athletes whose grades are low with other athletes who can tutor them and help them along.
Mr. Succow said that a strategy he used to help his team exceed in the classroom was holding a mandatory study hall in the afternoon before night games so athletes could get their homework done before the game.
Varsity swimmer and recent individual state champion Mike Nelson ’12 said that he also stays up late because of homework.
“I a usually up until 10:30 (p.m.), if not 12 (a.m.),” Nelson said.
Nelson said he uses the Information Commons as a peaceful place to get homework done.
Despite all of the added pressure of swimming and advanced classes, Nelson said he is still only “moderately stressed” on a daily basis and that his organization skills allow him to manage his stress.
Nelson acknowledges that Brophy is only asking him to reach his full potential but he does think that there is room for improvement.
Mr. White said Brophy has some of the best coaches in the state in terms of being aware of the stress levels of their athletes, but there is always room for improvement.
Mr. White spoke of the Ignatian principle of “cura personalis.” Translating to “care of the person,” this phrase is a help in itself for stress management as it calls Brophy to look out for the overall well-being of its students.
“(Brophy) just asks me to be the best student that I can be,” Nelson said.
Mr. Succow said that “(balance is) difficult to come by because you want to be competitive and I think in general the public expects victories. That’s how a program is assessed.”
However, he went on to say that he realizes that winning is not the most important thing.
“I think family by far is the most important, and obviously the education that a young man is getting here,” Mr. Succow said. “Then his extra-curriculars, whether that be in his athletics, with band, drama, speech and debate, any of those things. I think all of us that are in charge of extra-curriculars are aware of that, we just (have to) keep reminding ourselves that we need to keep the interest of, in this case, the student athlete in mind.”