Summer Is Short for High School Arts and Sports
By Era Sundar
Most students in Central Texas will be heading back to school on Monday. But for many, school is already in session.
The sun has barely risen and the Viper football team is running through drills at Vandegrift High School. The players are sacrificing two weeks of their summer to get ready for the new season.
“Ultimately there are bigger things than just chilling and hanging out at home,” said Kyle Gruber, a senior on the team. “I’d rather go work my butt off and see us in the state championship in December.”
Drew Sanders is the Viper football coach. He says getting the team revved up is no problem, even during vacation.
“These guys are self-motivated dudes,” Sanders said. “They are ready to rock ’n’ roll. Actually, they look forward to being around each other again. And we’re a team, so they enjoy each other’s company.”
Football players aren’t the only ones getting ready for the season. The Viper marching band started practicing a week before the football players showed up.
“The biggest thing I like about band is the family culture that we have in it, and everyone’s really supportive of each other,” said senior drum major Kelly Schriner. “Also I really like music and how it has the power to inspire people.”
OK, but what about having to practice every morning at 7?
“It gets kind of exhausting after a while, but it’s worth it.” Schriner said.
Sports and fine arts students have schedules packed with before- and after-school activities. On top of that extra work, they have to keep their grades up if they want to participate. And for the most part, it seems to be working.
“The students are at their highest academic performance level during their busiest time of year, during the first and second six weeks,” said Jeremy Spicer, director of bands at Vandegrift. “We’ve had a few studies throughout the district, not just at Vandegrift, of checking the students’ grades and the records with the counseling department, and the students are able to balance their time when they are at their busiest because they have to be their most efficient.”
Extracurricular programs are often at the mercy of school budgets. Bret Champion, superintendent of the Leander school district, says money gets tighter every year. But economic obstacles can be tackled. And one remedy may seem surprisingly simple.
“Attendance is critical for a multitude of things,” Champion said. “First of all, of course, the learning that goes on in school is critical. But also as a funding issue. The more students we get in seats during the day, the more funding we get from the state. Talk about a win-win. It’s good for kids. It’s good for our funding. And so that’s another thing parents can do: Make sure their kids are in attendance every day.”
Champion says athletics and fine arts are important to student development. And the district will involve the community in budget discussions, especially when those programs could be affected. The goal is to keep tempo with changing economic times while giving students the resources they need to flourish.