A letterman jacket is given to those who have displayed commendable commitment, persistence, and industry. Generally, these are given exclusively to athletes who play on a varsity team. When it comes to the eligibility of performance, art, and academic groups for these jackets, however, the question boils down to how they should be perceived and treated.
These groups must be considered high school sports, with regards to money, allocated resources, and promotion. The idea of these groups receiving letterman jackets is usually considered laughable. What is it, that these two focuses have in common that require the exact same customs and practices? The answer is, in fact, many things. Their similarities in tone, spirit, and competition defeat their differences in particular activity.
Performance, art, and academic groups are similar to high school sports in their competitive nature. Just like high school sports, these groups often attend competitive events and participate to win. To keep a successful, respectable record, these groups must make consistent, dedicated efforts. The persistence and discipline required closely rival the efforts made in most high school sports.
Although it is true that high school sports are more demanding physically, this does not necessarily mean they are more demanding as a whole. For instance, many academic groups require effort not only within the group and their meetings, but also at home, chewing through participants’ free time. This type of devotion to an area must be appreciated, and it is wrong to suggest that the efforts of academic groups are less taxing than those of varsity sports programs.
Additionally, in most cases, art, and performance programs are on par with the technical skills required in sports programs. While sports programs require skills like endurance and strength, art and performance programs require elegance or artistry. Take, for example, drawing. Drawing, most people would say, should not receive the treatment as a varsity sport, because a sport is defined as something that requires physical exertion. When more closely examining the issue, however, it becomes clear that there is sufficient overlap when it comes to time commitment and dedication to the field. Both an artist and an athlete attend competitive events, and both must display determination and commitment.
This is not to conflate the definitions of varsity sports and those that are traditionally separate from the athletics. The two are very different. Rather, these groups must be treated on the same plane of importance as varsity sports, whose participants exhibit an equal amount of diligence and resolve.
Breaking most traditions to accept all in the new age is becoming the best way to progress in society, yet one sport tradition should be left alone. Academic, performance and arts groups should not be able to letter. Letterman jackets have been a sports tradition for more than 150 years. The first letterman jackets, originally sweaters, were created for Harvard University’s baseball team in 1865. Since then, the letterman jacket became popular not only for baseball teams but for most other sports teams.
The jacket is a symbol of societal acknowledgment for the achievements that athletes have achieved for playing on varsity for more than two years. Almost like a trophy, the jacket allows teammates to wear their experience with pride despite their losses. Allowing students to letter from other groups would become problematic. Merging performance, art, and academic students with athletes, since they all have very different skill sets, would undermine the original purpose of the jacket.
Permitting all students who participate in school extracurricular activities to letter, would slowly turn the letterman jacket into a school product rather than reward. The letterman jacket pushes athletes to play their hardest to obtain it which teaches an important life lesson about audience. Taking that away from athletes, takes away the incentive to continue with a sport. Along with the tainting of their purpose, letterman jackets are unique to sports. Therefore, if other students deem it necessary to receive a jacket, there should be an alternative jacket for them. Each group of students is different and should require different attire. Students of sports, performance, art, and academics should all receive an award, albeit not a jacket that wasn’t designed specifically for them.
This would give the students a chance to create their own forms of expressing honor through hard work and dedication.
Awarding everyone despite each student’s time and effort spent on a particular activity defeats the purpose of an award. Letterman jackets are given to a select few who stand out from their peers in sports. Most athletes play their hardest in order to receive it, but without it, who’s to say they would care about the sport without an end result? Similar to other awards in visual arts and academic awards, letterman jackets shouldn’t be given to those who haven’t earned it. Letterman jackets are an athletes’ way of receiving something to take along with them in order to remember the hard work they put in to gain it. Just like athletes, other students should be given a similar reward, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a letterman jacket.