The letter and the jacket. The club member vs. the athlete.

Caroline Showalter, Staff Writer

EDITOR’S NOTE: Two weeks ago in the Tyrone Eagle Eye News, Haley Butina wrote an opinion article (Recognition to the Letter) addressing varsity letters. It was a masterfully written piece arguing that all of the students who contribute to the rich experience of high school should be recognized in a fashion similar to athletes – with a varsity letter. This would include scholars, club members, musicians, and those who pursue the arts.

What follows is a column inspired by Haley’s article, which was read and discussed widely in the BluePrint newsroom and among the general Bellwood-Antis student body. However writer Caroline Showalter opted to write an article from the other side of Haley’s argument, rather than a point-by-point refutation.

The Letterman Jacket…

Makala Doyle is a senior here at Bellwood-Antis High School.  She doesn’t participate in sports but she is in many clubs.  She is an officer of the Leo club, an officer of Aveidum, an officer of Yearbook, a senior class officer, member of the BluePrint, NHS, Spanish Club, and reading competition.  Makala helped organized Homecoming, Skit Night, the coffee house, and the blood drive.  She writes stories for the BluePrint, and helps make sure the yearbook got done.  Makala does this all while also being in the honors curriculum.

You probably didn’t know all of that.

Makala doesn’t get recognized for her hard work, and that’s just life.  While recognition for her achievements would be nice, Makala said, “I do all of this and stay involved, not to get recognition, but to be involved and have an impact. I do not expect to receive anything, but I can be proud of what I have done and been a part of.”

On the other hand, you have athletes who get awards banquets, letters and letterman’s jackets. Some of them only play the minimum number of quarters to letter, or earn the minimum number of points.

How is this fair?

The fact is if you to give a varsity jacket to everyone and their brother, you are proving the stereotype that our generation just wants to make everyone happy.  Like it or not, we are becoming wimps.  Giving every person a varsity jacket would just turn the award into participation medals in little league.

“Congratulations! You sat the bench and did nothing but hey, here’s your medal.”

It becomes a game of let’s make sure no one’s feelings get hurt or let’s put everyone on the same level.

Placing every activity on the same level as sports isn’t right. It only reinforces the preconceived notion that sports are the ultimate, and therefore everyone should strive to be equal to them.  There’s room for every group to have it’s own awards and ways to be recognized to make them special.

I’m not saying that the athlete is better than any other student in extracurricular activities.  Each group should have its own thing. I have a couple friends who are in multiple extracurricular clubs and they work hard to make sure community service activity gets done or the Homecoming parade that we have every year runs smoothly, but that doesn’t mean they should get something that has always been meant for the athlete.

If you think the worst thing in the world is you aren’t going to be recognized for achieving something or getting a varsity jacket, then you have no idea what life is going to throw at you, because you are going to encounter a lot of worse things that not getting that jacket.

For example, FFA has its own jackets.  Similarly, we could give each club its own thing.  If chorus wanted recognition for going to counties, they can have their own jacket when they make it the first year. Then they could earn a pin for each successive level and honor. If they made it to districts in 2015, they could earn a pin that says Districts: 2015.  It’s just like getting an ICC All-star patch or District patch in sports.

This whole idea of giving everyone varsity jackets or letters takes away from the meaning of the varsity letter.  When I was a young, aspiring athlete learning how to pass the rock or hit dingers, I dreamed of getting a varsity jacket one day with my name on it, like all the older athletes I looked up to.  I never was a Leo Club member thinking, “Oh, I can’t wait to get my letterman’s jacket for doing ten hours of community service.”  It’s something that I feel was made for the athlete, not for the member of the club.  Yes, they both work equally hard but sometimes in life you’re going to work your butt off and not get that reward.  But you can’t sit back and pout because you didn’t get that promotion at your job or that position on the football team you’ve been dreaming of since you played little league.  You have to keep working hard until you get it. It’s life … sometimes you’re not going to get what you want.

When I step on the softball field to play a game I want to have a hit every at bat, but in reality I might go two for three one game, or might even strike out three times.  When you have a job and your friend has job but he’s getting paid more, are you going to take it to court and say you want the same salary?  No. It’s life. Everyone’s meant to have different things and everyone is different.  This isn’t the perfect utopia where everyone in my grade has the same athletic ability, or the same IQ.  Life would be boring that way.  Like Bellwood-Antis senior  Zachary Taylor said, “A scientist who discovers a cure for cancer isn’t going to win the Medal of Honor.”

Consider if you were in the FFA and you got your own jacket (which FFA members across the country earn), how would you feel if you saw a non-member of the FFA with an FFA jacket on just because they loved to take care of animals, planted a garden, or spread fertilizer on their lawn?  Athletes feel the same way: it’s just a tradition that has gone on for hundreds of years starting in the 1800’s when the Harvard baseball team came up with the varsity sweater that has now turned into that iconic letterman’s jacket.

There’s one other perspective on this: honestly, in the whole scheme of the things is this issue of who gets a letterman’s jacket or letter really that important?  You might spend that $250 to get that jacket, but in reality after you get it how often are you really going to wear it?  I have my own varsity jacket and I only wear it when it’s cold out.  Once you graduate and move on to bigger and better things are you really going to think, “Getting that varsity jacket was the best thing to happen to me in life.”  In the future you’re going to move in to that new house and that jacket is either going to end up in the deepest darkest part of your closet and you’ll probably bump into it on your way to Narnia, or its going to end up shoved in a box collecting dust in your attic.

Trust me, if all your worried about is getting that letter and jacket so you can remember the good ole days, whether in the arts, clubs or sports,then maybe you should think about what’s really important to your future.  If you think the worst thing in the world is you aren’t going to be recognized for achieving something or getting a varsity jacket, then you have no idea what life is going to throw at you, because you are going to encounter a lot of worse things that not getting that jacket.