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No place for football at St. Vincent HS

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EDITOR: In two recent articles (“Ex-Casa coach Herzog to lead St. Vincent,” John Jackson, Argus Courier 02/16/2018; “Padecky: Trent Herzog thrilled to be a head football coach again,” Bob Padecky, Press Democrat, 02/21/2018), St. Vincent High School Principal Patrick Daly celebrated the hiring of Trent Herzog, which filled the football head coach vacancy. However, while Daly takes pride in this move, as a recent St. Vincent graduate (Class of 2015, Valedictorian), I lament the acquisition, not because of who is being hired, but rather for why the hiring is being done, as well as Daly’s lauding of what is a contrived sense of football’s importance at St. Vincent’s.

For St. Vincent to continue to have a football program, while simultaneously claim that it places the academic and social development of its students first and foremost, is an utter contradiction. It is now accepted that football poses risks that transcend the musculoskeletal domain. Thanks to widely publicized and acclaimed research linking the sub-concussive, repeated blows suffered in football with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), it’s known that football can lead to chronic, irreparable cognitive deficits which can adversely affect the player’s ability to think, to form relationships and to live cerebral and productive lives — all of which I believe to align precisely with St. Vincent’s “Graduation Outcomes,” the standards to which it holds its graduates. Football has no place at an academic-based institution like St. Vincent’s, which can offer a multitude of alternative sports for its student athletes. Football is, inherently, antagonist to the cognitive development and fortification of young minds and thus should have no premium placed on it at St. Vincent’s.

Further, Daly is wrong to say “A successful football program sets the tone on campus,” (Padecky, 02/21/18). For a school official, let alone the principal, to take such a stance and imply that a student who cannot play football, or a student like me who chose not to because of its risks, or simply just does not want to, is in a lesser position to “set the tone on campus” is an incredibly fallacious and injurious statement. The “tone” of a campus should not be governed by a single group of teenage men, but rather be a dynamic construction of whatever may be happening around the school at the time, be it a drama performance, science fair, volleyball game, etc. St. Vincent’s has been, and can continue to be, an empowering campus for all of its students, yet in his words, Daly withdraws some students’ potential for impact, and prematurely inflates the potential of others.

I believe that St. Vincent’s should reevaluate its desire and need for a football team. While I am encouraged that football is becoming less popular around the country, I am discouraged that my former high school, which was in a unique position to softly move away from the sport, failed to take the safest course of action for its students, perhaps yielding to benefactor pocketbooks or the perceived need to change its image in the interest of recruiting new families. Indeed, to excel at academics and sports is a noble goal, yet football is much too incompatible with what St. Vincent’s first selling point is: academic development.

Joey Wertz was Student Body President and Valedictorian at St. Vincent’s, Class of 2015, and is currently a junior at Harvard University, concentrating in Applied Mathematics.