With an unprecedented swarm of athletes entering the GDS men’s basketball program this year, a larger question about the future of the athletic program has been raised: will GDS begin recruiting athletes?
GDS has struggled to compete in the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAC) recently due to an increase in recruited athletes and a more serious approach to athletics at other schools. While MAC schools have started recruiting athletes in order to stay competitive, GDS has stuck to the principle of building teams that consist of athletes already attending the school. This raises the question of what the best path is for GDS going forward: are we going to try to compete with the high-level talent in the MAC, or are we going to start playing in less competitive leagues?
Athletic Director Kathy Hudson said GDS is taking the proper steps to address the aforementioned question. GDS now has a Steering Committee run by a private consultant that consists of board members, parents, and coaches. Their primary objective is to determine whether GDS is going to be a participatory school or a future MAC and ISL competitor.
If GDS opts for the participatory school route, the school will maintain a more relaxed attitude where students can play a varsity sport simply because they have already played at the junior varsity level. It is a model that gives regular students who may not be gifted athletes the opportunity to play on teams. If GDS instead chooses to compete in the MAC, the school will try to build a stronger athletic reputation and acquire more talent.
The rules of the MAC make the process of recruiting more complicated, given that GDS doesn’t already have a strong athletic reputation that naturally attracts athletes. The MAC rulebook states that “No school personnel or coach should make first contact with a candidate for the purpose of recruiting an athlete. The family or student-athlete should initiate contact with the school.”
Because of this rule, Hudson stated that if GDS wants to compete, it is just as much the responsibility of the students, parents, and coaches as it is that of the administration.
“In order to get athletes into the building without violating the rules, it is essential that we have our parents, coaches and students who care about this networking for us,” Hudson said.
In order to build GDS’s reputation, the school needs to first have consistent success in athletics so student-athletes know that they can play in a competitive program. This process starts with everyone, from students to people in the administration, working to bring in athletes.
GDS is already one of the top schools academically in the area, so if it were able to build an athletic reputation it would be easier to attract serious students who are also athletically gifted. Because students at GDS have to meet a high academic standard, GDS will never be a school defined by athletics like many other sports powerhouses in the area without the same academic standards. This can make creating a competitive athletic program harder, but GDS is in no way expected to change the quality or rigor of its academics.
Although acquiring talented athletes is an important piece of the puzzle, Hudson made clear that it isn’t everything. The culture surrounding athletics at GDS is often not as serious as it could be.
“We can’t be at 50% of the practices. That’s not an athletic program, and that’s not participating in an athletic program,” Hudson said, referring to how change really needs to come from students and coaches if GDS wants to compete.
GDS will never be considered a serious athletic program if students don’t take it seriously themselves. This means going to every practice, working in the offseason to get better, and getting people to come and show support at games.
All of this isn’t to say that GDS hasn’t had any recent success in athletics. For example, last year the women’s varsity soccer and women’s varsity volleyball teams won their respective ISL A division banners. This year, the women’s varsity soccer team finished second in the ISL AA division to Sidwell, merely losing in double overtime. Last year, the men’s varsity soccer team tied for first place in the MAC Championships and were co-champions for the banner.
Despite this success, however, our men’s teams have struggled in the MAC in both basketball and lacrosse, with some occasional flairs of success. The larger question, though, is whether GDS can support a highly successful athletic program instead of just having good teams for one year at a time.
By Eric Margolis’ 19