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Specialization: End of an Era

As Deerfield’s varsity rosters fill with more and more serious athletes, specialization has become a popular option for an after-school co-curricular. This fall the school has implemented a new policy which allows students a co-curricular exemption one season per year to train for their main sports.

“Among other resolutions, this idea recognizes that student-athletes are increasingly seeking time for training in their primary sport,” explained Athletic Director Charles Davis, who is also the varsity football coach and a member of the Athletics Task Force. “We very much value team sports participation and therefore thought this one-term option to be a reasonable compromise for juniors and seniors.”

The Athletics Task Force is a group of teachers who recommended two seasons of one sport, under the condition that participant atheletes play a different sport the third term. As Mr. Davis mentioned, this new policy is only applicable to upperclassmen. Underclassmen must find their major sport by trying out different team sports.

“Our hope is that this policy will maintain Deerfield’s tradition of promoting a well-rounded education while helping athletes who feel like they need to devote more time to a particular sport,” responded English teacher Karinne Heise, head of the Athletic Task Force. “We also hope that this policy will enable athletes to develop their competitive edge without falling prey to some of the dangers of over-specialization–like overuse injuries and burnout.”

“Looking forward, I wonder if the school would be willing to let underclassmen also make use of this opportunity,” said Sunho Park ’14, who currently has a hockey exemption. “But I imagine that the school would want underclassmen to make friends through their sports even if those students don’t take the sport seriously.”

Other voices agreed with Park’s claim that underclassmen should be playing team sports to be more involved in the community. Cameron Dewey ’14, with a squash exemption, said, “Playing a team sport is invaluable for new kids to meet others that they normally wouldn’t come across.”

Although the policy as of now is a pilot program that may be subject to change in the near future, so far there have not been many complaints regarding the system.

“There may be faculty members who are saddened by the fact that there is so much pressure on the students to take things to such a high level,” said Head of School Margarita Curtis. “We felt for a long time that students performing in three different sports each year is very appropriate for the secondary level. However, we still see a lot of value in discovering new talents and strengths during your high school career, hence the condition to compete in an off-season sport.”

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