SALT LAKE CITY – If your job required mandatory sleepovers, you would draw the line. But that’s what many schools are requiring of their students if they want to take part in sports and activities.
KSL TV spoke to parents who are frustrated by the time commitment of mandatory practices, camps, clinics and games. When family traditions and trips no longer fit in the schedule, that’s the cost of belonging.
Parents are so afraid to get their kids blacklisted that most won’t talk openly. However, one father, whose son just graduated from Bingham High School, can talk about the demands of school-sponsored sports and activities.
“You’ve got to compete all year, and you’ve got to work yourself,” said Chuck Baggett.
“The pressure is very much on there,” his son, John-Paul Baggett said. “The pressure’s on throughout practice, throughout the whole summer, the whole off-season.”
To be clear, the Baggetts love the opportunities that come from being a part of the team. However, it comes at a high price.
The students have fundraising requirements in addition to the practices and games. The real cost, though, comes in what families miss out on due to time commitments.
When students at Taylorsville High School make the Drill Team, for example, so do their families.
There are 6 a.m. daily practices, mandatory Drill camp, mandatory socials, and even mandatory sleepovers.
As for school-mandated sleepovers, the head of the Utah High School Activities Association told KSL TV they don’t regulate summer activities. Those are handled by districts and school principals.
In this case, those Drill Team members must sign a contract that states: “… you will be required to attend a great deal of games, events, competitions, practices and any other activities.”
The drill teacher said she made exceptions for parents who don’t believe in sleepovers, but many students don’t dare ask for exceptions.
The pressure (to attend activities) is very much on there. The pressure’s on throughout practice, throughout the whole summer, throughout the whole off-season.
–John-Paul Baggett, former student-athlete
As for vacations, student-athletes and their families are more or less limited to a specific week during summer.
“If you haven’t taken your vacation in August, just don’t plan on it,” Chuck Baggett said. “The state has a mandatory shutdown for all sports generally the first of July.”
The Utah High School Activities Association requires a statewide all-sport moratorium. That means no competitions, practices, meetings or travel the week of June 30 – July 6. That’s the week for the family vacation.
Sometimes life’s events don’t always fit into the practice schedule.
“The football player’s brother was coming home from his mission and asked to miss practice,” Chuck Baggett said. “The coach said, ‘You know, we’ve got to have you at practice.’ He ended up missing the practice but then was told, ‘OK, you’re going to miss half the game.'”
Kids feel that pull between parents and coaches.
“As a teenager, we don’t know how to make decisions like that,” John-Paul Baggett said. “We want to make our parents happy. We want to make our coaches happy because both of them are giving us stuff we need.”
That kind of pressure became too much for Alta High junior student Jacob Noxon.
“The first word that comes to mind is an ‘intermission,'” he said.
Noxon quit everything: cheerleading, marching band and color guard. So did his sister, Rebekah.
“It was, honestly, really hard on my mental health because I felt like I was just going, going, going all the time,” she said.
Feelings like that are red flags given that the Utah Health Department found in their 2017 Adolescent Health Report that more than 27% of students reported feeling sad or hopeless. More than 20% of Utah students in grades eight – 12 reported psychological distress.
“At some point, you’ve just got to say the kid is more important than whatever I’m trying to get them to do,” said Jacob and Rebekah’s mom, Carole Anderson.
That realization is key to knowing and supporting our kids.
Coaches aren’t the only ones driving the cost of belonging, either.
“I think, a lot of times, coaches will get the brunt of the complaining because they’re the coach,” said Tamara Baggett, who is a second-grade teacher. “Sometimes I think parents do go a little bit overboard in expecting so much out of our kids.”
With four kids and several sports over the last decade, the Baggett family has found a way to adapt the cost of belonging on their family.
Sporting tournaments became their family vacations. They supported their children when they made sporting commitments, but they also helped their teens keep perspective.
“You get through high school, and then what?” Chuck Baggett said. “You didn’t get that scholarship. You’ve missed opportunities now with your family, and your family is always going to be there.”