Pressure on high school students today is greater than it was in past generations. Partially because of the internet and social media, but also because of higher expectations — for better and worse — that parents and society lay at the feet of children, juggling teen life today is different than what most adults experienced in their youth.
Pierson softball coach John “Woody” Kneeland offered some insight on the matter when he said this week that he considers each individual student’s needs when it comes down to putting together a team, or else he might not have a team at all. His best athlete might play three sports, even two at the same time, have a part in the school play, contribute to several school clubs and be enrolled in the challenging International Baccalaureate program all at the same time. Juggling that schedule is a challenge for all involved, and sports is not always at the top of the list.
Which is why it was so impressive to hear news this week that 27 individual student-athletes from Pierson and five separate sports teams were recognized from the winter season by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association with scholar-athlete awards, meaning the individuals and the teams collectively had grade point averages that were 90 or above. This included the Pierson girls and boys basketball teams as well as boys and girls winter track and boys swimming, which are shared sports with East Hampton High School.
Sag Harbor School District Athletic Director Eric Bramoff, who is an alumnus of Pierson, said times have changed since the days when coaches required athletes to make every minute of practice or suffer some kind of consequence.
Bramoff said the approach to athletics at Pierson has evolved. There’s basketball players who are also leads in the school play. There’s the robotics team and the National Honor Society. And, of course, there is the regular load of English, math, science and history. “The institutional knowledge of each coach and the relationship they have with the kids and their parents can help navigate all that,” Bramoff pointed out.
At Pierson, coaches like Kneeland recognize that communication is key to their success, and that the proper “navigation” of a season can lead to the kind of scholar-athlete awards Pierson students earned over the winter. Kudos to coaches Kevin Barron and Hank Katz (basketball), Yani Cuesta and Ben Turnbull (winter track) and Craig Brierley, the swim coach at East Hampton, for navigating their seasons and for allowing these children to shine in the classroom and in their athletic pursuits as well.