Go Team!: A Look Into Thacher’s Sports Requirement



Photo by Dana Vancisin 


The sports requirement, similar to other Thacher programs, is quite unique to the School. During the freshman year, students can choose to play team sports during two afternoons but must also ride five days per week. After the horse riding requirement, students are required to play a team sport for at least one season during their time at Thacher. While most students choose to play three team sports per year, rock climbing, horse riding, and the Independent Program are also options open to students. The Independent Programs allows a student to structure a personal afternoon activity in a topic of interest for one trimester. Recently, the sports requirement has become a common topic of discussion. Some students agree with the guidelines of the sports requirement, while others do not.

In a recent survey, of 120 responses, 45% of the respondents agreed with the current sports requirement. Many are in favor of it, as it is seen to promote a healthy lifestyle.  An anonymous response noted that “sports should be required for each trimester because it encourages a healthy lifestyle and it is unique to Thacher’s mission.” Most sports offered pose an array of physical challenges, ultimately helping students improve their athleticism and get into better shape. One student wrote, “even if you don’t like sports, Thacher may very well be the only time you get to try. If anything, you come away with a greater understanding of humility, acceptance, and flexibility.” The no-cut policy allows all students, regardless of their dedication to sports, to play with others and understand the importance of strong teamwork. Furthermore, the sports requirement makes it easier to create friendships with students in other grades. Trying new sports activities creates an environment for students to interact with those who they may not see during the school day or in other extracurriculars. For several reasons, a portion of the population views the current sports requirement to be well-suited for Thacher’s students.

While nearly half enjoy the sports requirement, 55% of respondents wish to see some changes with the current requirement of three sports per year. Considering the large time commitment that comes with participating in a sports team, Thacher students find limited free time between a long day of classes, sports, extracurriculars, formal dinners, and study halls. In the case of freshmen and the Horse Program, one student points out that, “freshmen should have the opportunity to practice with varsity or a higher level to pursue their passion for that sport.” Although some freshmen in the past have played on varsity teams, it is generally simpler to play on JV regardless of their skillset. Perhaps one point where most students found a pitfall was the emphasis placed on sports instead of other enrichment programs such as the arts. The arts requirement is two credits which can be earned in a one to two-year span. Meanwhile, the sports requirement is applied to each term. Interestingly, 63% of respondents found that requiring students to participate in two sports per year would be a better fit. It is important to note that this group of respondents generally added that students should strive to maintain a level of physical health.

The Independent Program is a special facet of Thacher. Students are able to create a personal afternoon activity and present it to a faculty panel for approval: this would count as their ‘sport’ for that term. In the past, students have had independents in several subject areas such as photography, visual arts, dance, and writing. With 96% of respondents in favor, the Independent Program is well liked by the Thacher community. However, a student wrote, “I feel independent programs should be available to sophomores as well so they can explore their creative freedoms and passions without the pressure of junior year.” Even though there isn’t a guideline restricting sophomores from applying for an independent, they are commonly granted to juniors and seniors. At the end of the term, the student shares a presentation or showcase with the community featuring the final product from their independent. Regardless of the small flaws, Thacher students are overall content with the Independent Program and the freedom that stems from exploring one’s passions.

Some enjoy the current sports requirement, while other students wish it was slightly more flexible. Additionally, a program dedicated to allowing students to ‘choose their own adventure’ helps students personalize their hectic schedules. The sports requirement, a distinct element of Thacher’s mission, promotes a healthy physical and mental state for students; it also places a heavy emphasis on athletics. Overall, it is unclear what is in store for the future of Thacher’s sports guidelines: will the requirement be reduced to two sports per year? Will sophomore independents become more common? What students know for sure is that new school leadership is coming in 2018. Will this administration be more open to changing traditional Thacher programs like the sports requirement?

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