Unlevel Playing Field

Fairness is an essential component of sports, but at NA some sports garner far more attention than others.

In+a+school+that+is+recognized+throughout+the+region+as+an+athletic+powerhouse%2C+the+hidden+truth+is+that+recognition+and+appreciation+vary+widely+depending+on+the+sport.

photo by Magdalena Laughrey

In a school that is recognized throughout the region as an athletic powerhouse, the hidden truth is that recognition and appreciation vary widely depending on the sport.

By Magdalena Laughrey, North Allegheny Senior High School

When I was in elementary school, I remember always dreaming of the day I would play a sport in high school. Back then, high school athletes seemed like mini-celebrities whom I could not wait to become. They had it all: cool black and gold uniforms proudly brandishing the NA logo, shiny new equipment, and best of all, they played on the big field, Newman Stadium.

I joined the field hockey team in third grade and patiently waited six years until my freshman year rolled around to finally fulfill my childhood dream. Little did I know the day I decided to join field hockey that most of those dreams would be tarnished by the harsh reality of blatant unfairness in high school sports. 

From my own experiences playing field hockey for almost ten years, I can confidently say that the more “popular” sports are placed on a pedestal, while the “inferior” sports get brushed aside without a bat of an eye. The sports that rake in the most money tend to be the ones that get the better end of the deal in terms of recognition, equipment, uniforms, and practice time.

To someone who has put years of effort into their sport while seemingly getting little out of it, it all seems a bit unfair. It doesn’t take long to learn that some teams are brushed aside season after season in favor of catering towards the popular sports in terms of practice time and location, equipment, and a host of other important factors.

One of the fondest memories I have from my high school field hockey career happened during a practice sophomore year. For a majority of that season, the team practiced at J.C. Stone Field in North Park directly after school. On October 21st, 2018, the high school field hockey team got kicked off our scheduled field for a peewee football team. Our frustrated coach was told by one of the child football player’s parents that they had priority over us on the field. We spent a majority of our practice time during a critical time in our season sitting on the concrete, waiting for an answer as to what we were going to do, wasting precious time. 

For athletes stuck in the shadows, it can be difficult to find the courage to stay motivated because the angelic glow of the spotlight is far too dim.”

A number of other inconveniences have occurred throughout the seasons, such as players developing stress fractures from our practices being moved to a poorly maintained grass field so that another team could take our scheduled slot on the turf field, having to deal with broken cages with soccer-ball sized holes in the netting, wearing old uniforms that have been passed down for too many years, and so on. These grievances are not limited to field hockey; I can confidently say many other sports do not get the treatment they deserve and that they are no strangers to unfairness.

However, I believe the root of the problem stems mainly from the lack of recognition and appreciation the less popular sports receive from the students of NA. If it’s not Friday night, the student population on the bleachers is desert-like. In fact, most of the people that come to cheer for such NA teams are the parents of the athletes on the field, along with some other family members.

Needless to say, sports such as football get the most recognition because the team makes the most money for the district due to high attendance. The more money a sport makes, the more money the team has to spend on necessities such as equipment. However, the lack of recognition for other sports can make the players feel like they are doing something wrong, like they are lacking drive or choosing the wrong avenue for their athletic goals. For athletes stuck in the shadows, it can be difficult to find the courage to stay motivated because the angelic glow of the spotlight is far too dim.

Some of us may ask, “Why keep working to be the best if no one will ever take notice?”

It’s a shame. Where we all fail as a student body is in offering undivided support for every athlete and every sport. We all play for the same team, representing our school proudly each game, so why do we let our “teammates” down every season? No matter the importance or significance of the game, attendance matters to the team and to NA, and it should matter to you.

This story was originally published on The Uproar on January 7, 2020.