We are a nation obsessed with youth and high-school sports. Parents provide everything young athletes need from equipment, lessons and summer camps to chauffeur service for weekend tournaments.
We provide everything, that is, except a sense of proportion.
It's not just sports, of course. Band parents can be every bit as obsessive as football parents, and many high-school students find their passion in a vocal group or a foreign-language club rather than on the playing field.
Even if most dreams of professional sports careers (or fronting that famous rock band) will never come true, participation in nonacademic activities can be fun, enriching and can provide an opportunity to learn things that just aren't taught in the classroom - just as long as they don't get in the way of that classroom work.
Vineland school officials are trying to make sure that one of the lessons participants in these activities learn is that academics come first. The Vineland School District announced this week that high-school students will have to maintain a 2.0 grade point average to participate in sports, clubs and other activities.
This seems like such a common-sense idea - and such a modest standard - that we're somewhat surprised it hasn't been put in place before this. Maintaining a C average isn't a very stringent academic requirement.
Many schools have academic requirements for participation in sports, but they tend to be based on the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association guidelines, which are more concerned with students not failing any courses rather than meeting a certain GPA. Under NJSIAA guidelines, athletes who are on track to earn enough credits to graduate can suit up, even if they are passing those classes with D's.
Some other districts that use GPA as a standard set the bar a little higher, at 2.5 for instance, in their attempt to emphasize the "student" in student-athlete.
The Vineland district is trying this out as a one-year pilot program. We hope district officials find reason to continue it - and that they find the GPA standard could be even more demanding, taking advantage of students' desire to play baseball or belong to the drama club to help them strive to be more than just average.