by Giuliana Weiss '19
As most people know, I’m not a particularly athletic person. I’m not currently a member of any school sports teams, and I haven’t been since freshman year. However, I am an active participant in the performing arts community. One of the greatest challenges I face as a thespian at National Cathedral School is balancing theatre with the amount of sports credits all students are required to complete. When people talk about the benefits of participating in sports, they often mention two specific arguments: firstly, that sports contribute to a healthy lifestyle, and secondly, that they teach valuable life lessons.
To address the former tenet, I agree that exercising regularly is important to leading a happy and healthy life and that NCS’s curriculum requirements motivate us to do so. However, I believe that there are other ways to stay active outside of being on a sports team, such as participating in the performing arts. For example, working backstage in theatre productions can be quite labor intensive. Constructing the set itself takes time, energy, and strength; not to mention the effort it takes the run crew to be able to efficiently change scenes during a production, something which requires regular practice and great precision. Actors also get plenty of exercise, especially when the production is a musical. As someone who spent seven years swimming competitively and several years participating in a ridiculous amount of other sports, I can definitively say that dancing is just as strenuous as any other athletic enterprise.
In regards to the latter argument, I confer thus. While it is undoubtedly true that sports are effective at teaching students self-discipline, I would argue that performing arts can be just as successful. When you work on a production, no matter what role you play in it, from costume designer to set crew member to actor on stage, you become part of something larger than yourself. You become one facet of a diverse and highly-engaged team which cannot function without all of its members putting the maximum amount of effort they can muster into their work. In this way, the performing arts teach teamwork and responsibility to all those who participate in them.
One thing that really strikes me about NCS is the sheer amount of emphasis they put on sports and sports teams. Not only are you required to participate in sports for all four years of high school, but you also have to have a sport on your schedule for nearly the entire year. While I understand the need for students to keep up a healthy lifestyle and make time for exercise, this sports requirement makes it hard for me, as a participant in the performing arts, to make time for what I love to do.
Furthermore, the sports credit system emphasizes the narrative that the NCS community values athletics significantly more than it does the performing arts. Think about it: NCS requires us to participate in at least ten seasons of sports to graduate, but only one year of arts. And when I say arts, I’m not just referring to forms of the performing arts, but to those of the visual arts as well. To reiterate my point, under the current curriculum requirements, students participate in ten seasons of sports and just two arts classes. Looking at this comparison, it’s hard for me to do anything else but come to the conclusion that NCS does not value the arts as a part of their mission of “educating [students] for the world.” Again, I am certainly not against NCS’s sports requirements. I just believe that the amount of time we are expected to devote to athletics doesn’t leave enough time for the performing arts.
I’m also not arguing that theatre should become a substitute for all sports credits. On the contrary, I think that participating in sports is an important step in becoming a well-rounded student. However, I also happen to believe that participation in the performing arts is just as important as participation in athletics when achieving that goal. Currently, students have to really know that they love theatre to be willing to put in the time necessary to participate in productions. People who haven’t participated in theatre before but want to try it often find themselves discouraged from doing so due to their already full schedules.
Participating in theatre changed my life, and I want everyone to be able to have the opportunity to enjoy it the way I do. I believe that by allowing theatre to count for sports credits, more students will be able to discover the wonder of the performing arts in ways that they never would have imagined possible.