Sweat drips into sophomore Julia Ragno’s eyes, her muscles aching after an intense two-hour practice at Solo Aquatics. She gets home and looks up at the clock, a familiar sinking feeling settling in when she realizes it is already 9 p.m. and she has homework due for all her classes the following day.
As school seasons wind down, many Paly athletes prepare for their club season. Student athletes who play competitive club sports spend an average of 10 hours or more per week doing rigorous conditioning and skill development, according to junior Trisha Razdan, who plays club volleyball — but those who play club sports offered at Paly are not eligible to receive a prep for Independent Study sophomore P.E.
In order to reduce stress and help improve the mental health of these athletes, freshman and sophomores who play club sports in their school offseason ought to be able to apply for this prep.
Only student athletes who play sports not offered by Paly’s athletics program can apply for an Independent Study P.E. prep, which will give them a prep instead of P.E. during their sophomore year. Applicants must also have a minimum of three years of prior experience in a sport, receive year-round instruction and training 5-6 days per week and train a minimum of 15 hours per week under appropriate supervision of a qualified coach in order to qualify, according to the Paly website.
The district-wide program exists to give dedicated student athletes who have had a long-standing passion for their sport a break from P.E. after completing their mandatory first year of P.E., according to P.E. Instructional Leader Peter Diepenbrock. However, this policy excludes all students who play sports that are offered at Paly, regardless of their commitment to their sport year-round.
Paly sports last for only one season, and student athletes often choose to spend part or all of their offseason playing for a club — during club season, most students commit the same amount of time to practicing, conditioning and playing in games and tournaments as they do during the regular school season. These athletes face the same restrictions on homework time as they would during the school season, but do not get a prep to make up for the loss.
According Razdan, having a prep for P.E. during her club season last year, which spanned from December to May, would have reduced her stress levels and helped with sleep deprivation — and 96% of Paly athletes who play club sports agree, according to a Google Form distributed on social media to which 79 students responded.
Diepenbrock said the current restriction exists because the students who play club sports in their offseasons have already spent months away from P.E., and the course provides a valuable way to connect with classmates outside of a traditional classroom setting.
However, the mental health and stress levels of many student athletes who play club sports is put at risk when they train for 15 or more hours and still have to keep up with the heavy workload their classes demand without the buffer preps provide.
Those who meet all other qualifications for Independent Study P.E. preps ought to be able to apply for them when the sports they play at Paly are in the offseason, and over 85% of Paly students agree, according to the same survey.
There is no conflict with the Paly season, and dedicated club athletes will have the chance to make up some of the time they spend at practices and games.
Logistically, the process to apply for an Independent Study prep could easily be applied to club sports. Junior Joyce Lin, who received a prep in her sophomore year for fencing, said the application process includes a detailed description of the athlete’s training regimen, coach credentials, goals for the year and more — all of which can be fulfilled for athletes who play intensive club sports.
As for additions to the application to better accommodate the limitations of club seasons, the application could include start and end dates for the season and weekly time commitments as tournament schedules fluctuate, confirming that students fulfill the existing requirements for Independent Study P.E.
With a universal Independent Study P.E. application for both athletes who play sports not offered at Paly and offseason club athletes, all student athletes who dedicate dozens of hours each week to athletics can receive the prep they need to stay mentally healthy, reduce stress and succeed academically.