According to the IHSA handbook, athletes are eligible to participate in their particular sports as long as they attend school for a half-day (4 periods), and are maintaining a D average on their report card. At DGN, athletics are a major part of the student body. A percentage of DGN students play a particular sport as well as the spectators who watch their peers play. Although many athletes know about this rule, there is a question of who takes advantage of the rule and who does not.
Athletics are a major time commitment which forces students to not only manage their grades in school, but also make sure that they do well in practice to perform well on their respective playing field. Every year while going through the team expectations, coaches at DGN end their discussion with athletic eligibility rules and guidelines. “Even if you attend school for a half-day (4 periods), you are still eligible to play that day or night as long as you can keep your grades up,” DGN volleyball coach and counselor Mark Wasik said.
Last season, 75 players signed up to play football. Because of the large amount of players, the DGN football coaching staff had a lot to keep track of in terms of attendance to practices and games. “In terms of the attendance policy, attendance is done through the school and the coaching staff keeps track of who is and who is not present on gameday or practice,” DGN football defensive coordinator Keith Lichtenberg said. Lichtenberg also says that there is no clear cut rule on how many times a player is absent before further action is taken with that player. Lichtenberg and his staff just address each situation differently as they happen. Lichtenberg was unsure as to why his players would take advantage of the rule other than a family matter or a doctor’s appointment.
As for the current rule put in place by the IHSA, Lichtenberg is entirely in favor of the rule. “If Zain Bando had to miss a portion of the school day for a doctor’s appointment and attend practice as he normally would, then there is no point in changing the half-day rule as changing it would not benefit the athletes,” Lichtenberg said.
Senior Chris Wilford never missed a game during his DGN football career. Wilford is involved in numerous activities in and outside of school and has shown that school comes before athletics by receiving the the 2017 National Merit Award earlier this year. While some may have different opinions on the rule, Wilford’s stance is entirely in support of the rule. “I think it’s beneficial. We are all student-athletes with the student part coming first. And if you don’t attend school, you shouldn’t be able to practice or play. It makes school more about sports than learning and the rule should never be like that,” Wilford said.
Junior Jack Carr has been playing football at DGN since freshman year. While he has never missed a game, he has taken advantage of the half-day rule in the past in terms of practice days during the season. “Yes I have taken advantage of the rule, but never on game day,” Carr said. He also says that he enjoys coming to school to see his coaches and players. As far as the actual rule is concerned, Carr says that it is beneficial to all athletes. “I think It is a great rule. I think all athletes should be in class even on game day. Education is why you’re at school, not sports,” Carr said.
While the rule remains in place, it will be interesting to see if more athletes take advantage of the rule in the future or if they do not. It will also be interesting to see if DGN coaches continue to have different attendance policies for their respective sports.