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You can talk about OPS, ERA or RBI, but if around the Anderson County High School softball team, you'd better be ready to talk about GPA.
That is how Anderson coach Brian Glass wants it, at least.
Glass has instituted a policy with the Lady Bearcats this year, raising the team's academic standard above that required by the school and by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
“You have got to make good grades,” Glass said. “The school policy is that if you have two “F's,” you can't play.
“My policy is if you have even one “F,” you are suspended from the team until that teacher tells me you have brought your grade up.”
To some, it might seem to be somewhat lenient, but the standard Glass has set is far higher than the guidelines from the KHSAA, which answers to the state Department of Education. Our requirements are general,” Elden May, a spokesman for the KHSAA, said in an e-mail. “A student has to be passing at least four classes out of six, as defined by the Department of Education. To be eligible at the beginning of each school year we go by credits applied toward graduation. Our rules state: sophomore (20 percent), junior (45 percent) and senior (70 percent). We keep it general because there are so many different school calendars and credit systems throughout the state. Districts set their own standards about what is a passing grade, how to award credits, etc.”
Glass is the only coach to implement such a policy at Anderson, but softball is one of the higher-profile sports to have its one standard higher than required.
“Brian had talked about it for his team and had talked about it for a long time,” says Anderson principal Ray Woodyard, who was all for the Glass policy. “I thought it was great. It set the standard that you have to be getting it done in the classroom.”
Which is exactly what Glass wanted.
On the field, Glass' teams have been a resounding success. The softball program is undoubtedly one of the strongest at Anderson with a pair of state tournament appearances and several appearances in the state's Top 10. When the Lady Bearcats reached No. 7 in the coaches' poll last year, it was the highest ranking for any single-class sport at Anderson since the girls' basketball team reached the top of the ratings in 1978.
Yet, Glass said it was not enough.
“I want my girls to understand that grades come before athletics,” he said. “Having an 'F' is unacceptable and letting them by with this does not teach kids the responsibility of putting in the time to make good grades.”
Glass requires those who desire to be a part of his team to sign a Code of Conduct which has as its second rule, “I will do my best to maintain an A/B average in all my classes. I will not procrastinate. I will do all homework when and as assigned and will turn in all homework assignments. If I am having problems with academics I will ask for help before I let my grade drop.”
The first stipulation in the code is that the student-athlete not use alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs.
Glass believes there is a correlation between success in the classroom and success on the softball field. “Absolutely, I want my girls to strive to be the best in everything they do,” he said. “The key word is effort. If they struggle in a subject then they need to study harder.
“You play like you practice. We want our girls to simulate game speed in practice. Therefore, they should be working hard in the classroom everyday to prepare for assessments. I know a lot of time they are tired when getting home from games late, but they can study on the bus or get up at 5:30 in the morning after good sleep and study.”
There have been no complaints from players or parents, Glass said.
“None that I heard about,” he said. “We have great parents that all support good grades.”
Senior Courtney Turpin says the Code is good, and that the Lady Bearcats have had a Code of Conduct for several years.
“Everyone understands what they can and can not do. We have been enforcing it a lot more this year,” Turpin says. “And yeah there were some complaints at first but everyone understands that its what they need to do and do it for the team! I think the contracts are good because it keeps everyone focused and they know that if they don't make the grades then they don't play and with how small our team is this year we need everyone to advide by it and get it done in the classroom as well as on the field.”
It might seem strange to even have to make a statement like that, but many perceive that athletes simply get by and that such a practice should stop. Glass says such a perception had no factor in his decision to implement the policy.
“Our girls have always been held to high standards on and off the field,” he said.
Now, however, there is even more incentive and something in writing that supports Glass' belief that academics should be the first priority in his team's life.
Says Glass, “Kids will give you what you expect out of them. I expect the best of all my athletes.”
E-mail John Herndon at firstname.lastname@example.org.