Jacob Fife, '23
I love weird people—makes sense considering my dad was a hippie and my mom’s a red-head. Voyageur people, and I mean this in the best way possible, are weird. Some of the earliest American climbers—shirtless potheads that were just a tad crazy—were the pinnacle of spiritual freedom. While the students and coaches in the Voyageur program lack these qualities, freedom still permeates throughout. Perhaps, I should be clear: when I say “freedom,” I’m not referring to free-soloing up a fifty-foot wall with more confidence than Alex Honnald. I simply mean that Voyageur provides students with the freedom of the outdoors, the strangely stress-relieving sensation of tumbling over in a kayak or being stuck on a tall wall with the sole purpose of moving upward, and the freedom of expressing yourself.
The Voyageur program at St. Albans School began following a trip that Canon Martin, Headmaster of STA from 1949 to 1997, took to France. There, Mr. Martin joined a group of students who were participating in an outdoor excursion program. His experiences with this group inspired him to create a similar program at STA. Originally, Mr. Martin based the program almost directly off of the French group, even having the spelling of the program be the French “Voyageur” rather than “Voyager.” While the program has changed quite a bit since its founding, including the addition of the famous rock wall at the National Cathedral School’s athletic center, Mr. Martin’s mission that “there is a need for us to recapture an understanding and appreciation of nature, while experiencing the physical and mental challenges of outdoor activity” is maintained to this day. Whether through climbing outdoors at Carderock or kayaking on the Potomac River, appreciating nature is at the forefront of the Voyageur experience.
I first wanted to join Voyageur because my sister did it. I wasn’t very enthusiastic about climbing yet, and paddling was out of the picture due to unfading fears related to my subpar performance in the fifth grade Potomac River trip. I flipped over twice. Regardless, something attracted me to the program. For starters, I consider myself pretty good or, at least, decent at climbing. Being that I’m also a human being, I enjoy activities that I’m good at doing. Secondly, the Voyageur community is unlike any other. Calling heavy, quick breaths the “David Hla breathing technique,” giving surfer-bro names to kayakers who have successfully surfed on a rapid, and having long-winded debates on if some action can qualify as gross negligence—all are great customs and traditions of the Voyageur community.
These aspects contribute to my feeling of separation between school and Voyageur. Voyageur’s activities and the strangeness of its members allow for an escape from anything school-related. I like to describe climbing as meditative. For some reason, my mind is most at ease when I’m climbing up a fifty-foot wall. Perhaps, it’s because I only have one real objective: to go up. A typical response to when a climber in Voyageur asks, “What do I do?” is for Coach Velosky or Coach Giles to say, “go up.” While this advice might not, seemingly, be the most helpful, it is one-hundred percent true. Going upwards is the best thing to do when climbing, and, in top-rope climbing, the only thing you can do other than falling.
The freedom of Voyageur is best demonstrated by rolls in kayaking. Many will describe kayaking as stressful or unfun before learning to roll. Before learning to roll, flipping over in your kayak either means uncomfortably waiting underwater for someone to rescue you or releasing yourself from your boat and swimming it to shore. Both aren’t very fun. However, the ability to flip yourself back over through performing a roll improves the experience of kayaking exponentially. With the assurance of your roll, you achieve the freedom to try crazier activities like surfing—an activity that we kayakers like to refer to as “shredding the gnar.” Likewise, improving at climbing opens up the freedom to complete other, harder climbs.
To close this article, I’d like to tell a quick story. A couple of days ago, I was walking to an office hours meeting for the Spring Break Voyageur trip. While walking down the plentiful stairs of the NCS athletic center, I paused to watch Coach Velosky and Coach Giles installing a brand-new blue climb on the wall while listening to the song “First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes. This moment exemplifies everything I find so great about Voyageur. The excitement of embarking on new climbs, coaches dangling mid-air with a bucket of holds and a wrench, listening to music while doing group abs (called “grabs”)—just a bunch of stuff weirdos do in their natural habitat.
Sebastian Waizenegger, '22
On October 7th, 2021, it was confirmed--the rumor that had been bubbling under the surface for Newcastle United fans for years, tugging at the moral heartstrings of every Geordie in northern England: The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF), had completed the financial takeover of Newcastle, one of Britain’s most historic soccer clubs. While the Fund is technically “separate” from the Middle Eastern state, thus passing the regulations for ownership, it is still Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. The takeover stirred a myriad of questions about the future of the sport in addition to criticisms regarding human rights, which follow the Saudi government like a foul stench. One thing is for sure though: it will be fascinating to see how this historic takeover will change the landscape of European football as we know it.
Newcastle United, nicknamed the Magpies, who wear the iconic black-and-white-striped jerseys, will be forever part of English soccer lore. In their history, they have had legendary moments--such as their third-place finish in the Premier League’s second official season in 1993-94--and legendary players, like the ruthless finisher and Premier League’s all-time record goalscorer, Alan Shearer. However, Newcastle has spent the last fifteen years languishing in the bottom half of the Premier League table, or even being relegated to the second-tier, the Championship.
For context, Newcastle’s stadium, St. James’ Park, is the seventh-biggest in the Premier League--a league of twenty teams--with a maximum capacity of over 52,000, which is sold out nearly every matchday. Yet since the previous owner, Mike Ashley (CEO of the UK-based department store chain Sports Direct), took over in 2006, the net player spend has been the eighth-worst, and the capital expenditure on infrastructure (i.e. stadium, training ground) dead last. Ashley’s unwillingness to invest in the club in any meaningful way put him in bad stead with fans, who were desperate to see their club return to the successful and exciting times of old.
In came the Saudi-led consortium. Willing spenders, promising a budget of over 1 billion dollars to spend not only on future big-name player transfers, but also on stadium repair and a new training ground. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Part of the dilemma surrounding the Saudi ownership, who purchased Newcastle for nearly 400 million dollars, is the question of human rights, considering their numerous past violations. The chairman of the PIF, Mohammed Bin Salman, is believed to be directly connected to several inhumane actions, including the high-profile murder of The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Let me say it again. A man known to have orchestrated multiple killings is making crucial decisions at a global brand representing the most popular soccer league in the world. A quick scan of the dozen “controversies” listed on his Wikipedia page will tell you all you need to know about the guy entrusted to run this consortium.
Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, condemned the Saudi takeover.
“This is against the backdrop of a strategy by Saudi Arabia to use sports teams, athletes and major sporting events in the country to distract from its national human rights crises,” she says. “Given the Saudi Arabian government’s poor human rights record, this is a wake-up call to fans, broadcasters and players that sports should not be a tool for erasing human rights abuse.”
While human rights groups are critical, others are not. The aforementioned Newcastle-born Alan Shearer tweeted out, “Yesssssssss. We can dare to hope again.” From the nine s’s, you can get a good indication of his excitement levels.
In the end, it falls on the laps of the Premier League and the regulation board who approved the takeover, to answer to their decision. The further injection of money into the Premier League through this transaction, which promises future lucrative partnerships with the Middle East, ultimately confirms that they turned a blind eye to the untenable acts of those closely involved with the PIF.
What does the future hold for Newcastle? Only time will tell. Off the field, the other nineteen Premier League clubs have condemned the takeover in a joint statement. On the field, until yesterday Newcastle sat bottom of the Premier League table, without a win in fourteen games. While major investment is likely to begin in January when the transfer window to purchase reinforcements opens, it remains to be seen whether or not the deal can save their season. Long term, it raises concerns for the rest of the league, and European soccer in general.
I’ll leave you with this: What does it say about the sporting world when a club must be owned by a sovereign nation to achieve success?
Cover Image: Premier League
George Clessuras, '22
I’ll admit it, when it comes to evaluating the Washington Football Team I am prone to overreactions. After an opening week victory last season, I hailed Dwayne Haskins as the generational talent and leader poised to revive a deteriorating franchise. Four weeks later he was benched before ultimately being dismissed for poor performance and violating COVID protocols in a night club. Conversely, I advocated for Washington to fire head coach Ron Rivera after a disappointing 2-8 start; he proceeded to rally the team to a four game win-streak and its first playoff berth in five seasons. Moral of the story: my opinions don’t age well, take them with a grain of salt. That being said, Taylor Heinicke is the franchise quarterback Washington has spent twenty eight years and thirteen draft picks searching for. Here’s why.
Heinicke plays with a swagger and fearlessness that can’t be taught. Mere months after taking online math classes at Old Dominion University, sleeping on his sister’s coach, and telling friends he was retired from football, Heinicke was dropped into a prime-time NFL playoff game against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With a cool demeanor, he saved his football career, nearly knocking out the Super Bowl champs in a duel with the greatest quarterback of all time, a game that most didn’t think would be competitive. In his next start, again underneath the lights at FedEx Field, Heinicke led Washington down the field with two late drives to vanquish a division rival. Eight weeks later, Heinicke completed the fairytale story, knocking off Brady and engineering a nineteen play drive that lasted over ten minutes—one of the most impressive drives in the NFL this season. He seems to relish the big stage and the bright lights, a quality that has been hard to come by in recent years (think Kirk Cousins’ 0-6 record with Washington on Monday Night Football).
There is a narrative that Heinicke’s statistical output does not measure up to that of dependable quarterbacks. This narrative simply is not true. Through ten games, Heinicke has a higher total quarterback rating (QBR) than Russell Wilson and Baker Mayfeild, has been sacked less than Justin Herbert or Josh Allen, has completed passes at rate higher than Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, and is fifth in the league in quarterback rushing yards. On a graph that measures dropbacks on the X-axis and expected points per dropback on the Y-axis (a value derived from a mathematical equation which measures the value of yardage according to factors such as down and distance, field position, time remaining, etc.) Taylor Heinicke is one of seven quarterbacks firmly in the first quadrant. He is joined by Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Kirk Cousins, Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers, and Josh Allen—all considered “franchise quarterbacks.” This is even more impressive when one considers Heinicke’s inconsistent supporting cast. With injuries to his top two tight ends, thirty four million dollar receiver Curtis Samuel, and a variety of offensive lineman, we have yet to see what Heinicke can do with this offense when all of its key players are on the field, and that’s what's really exciting.
Now, riding a win streak and firmly in the playoff hunt, Washington has all of the momentum needed to catapult itself into its second consecutive postseason for the first time since 1992. And if they do, which I believe they will, it might be time to get used to a new type of Washington team with a new type of energy and a new franchise quarterback; Taylor’s version.
Cover Image: Washington Wire | Ivan Lambert
Yochi Hobson, '23
I’m sure we all know those late homework nights that seem never-ending. You know, that distressing feeling when you check your phone just to see that it’s 11:00 P.M., yet you still have to write an essay and annotate 20 pages of Mansfield Park? Repeated nights of this stress start to take a toll on your mental health, beginning to arouse feelings of panic and fatigue. Unfortunately, it can be very easy to fall into this trap because we have to juggle school work and extracurricular activities, like sports, that take up a lot of our time. At times, it may seem impossible to go to school and sports practice, do homework, eat dinner, shower, and still get to sleep at a reasonable time, but I’m here to let you in on a little secret—it’s actually not. The key is time-management. This may seem like an obvious answer, but think about it. Do you really manage your time well, or do you let hours of scrolling mindlessly through your phone creep into your day? With time management, you can complete all of your activities while preserving your mental health.
Although it may seem difficult to implement in daily life, the main concept of time management itself is quite simple: organization. An example of organization is consistently using your planner to write down homework assignments. Our planners should not just sit in the corner of your room looking pretty; they can actually help you. I suggest highlighting which homework assignments you need to complete each night, as well as writing check boxes next to each assignment. For those of you that like to use color for notetaking, color-coding your planner by classes can help you to be even more organized! Another method is to download a calendar app on your phone, like TimeTree, to keep track of due dates and ensure that you aren’t blindsighted by deadlines. This will allow you to stay on top of your many responsibilities, instead of forgetting about them and being forced to complete them at the last minute. Additionally, developing a schedule for everyday activities like eating or showering will help you to cut down on time spent completing them—for example, allotting 30-40 minutes for dinner, one or two 30-minute breaks, 10 minutes for showers, and 5 minutes for dental hygiene. By setting a time limit on each activity, you prevent yourself from wasting your precious time.
Personally, I use all 3 of these methods because I have a pretty busy sports schedule. I am currently doing gymnastics outside of school for NCS’ Independent Project Program to fulfill my sports credit, and my practices are each 4 hours long and occur 3 times a week. On days that I have practice, I get home at about 9:30pm, and then I have to eat, do homework, and get ready for bed. It may seem like juggling countless hours of gymnastics, school, and my other extracurriculars would be nearly impossible, but thanks to the time management methods that I have developed, I can manage it all and still get to bed by 11:00pm on gym nights. I’ve found that my mental health has benefited from being organized, despite having a hectic schedule. I rarely feel stressed or anxious about getting everything done, contributing to my peace of mind and overall happiness.
To preserve the well-being of your beautiful minds, I urge you all to take it upon yourselves to organize your time in a way that promotes harmony between your obligations and your mental health. As someone who has a lot of athletic and educational commitments, take it from me that relieving stress translates into a much more pleasant and peaceful quality of life. However, if you ever find yourself slipping up on time management, don’t fret. Just remember the tips in this article and you’ll be set!
Theo Johnson, '23
This Spring, as German team Mercedes first started its training for the Hot Wheels JUMP TOURNAMENT RACE, I got the unique opportunity to follow the racers and coaches throughout the Hot Wheels racing season. What I found was a promising future in the hands of skillful racers, but a lack of leadership from head coach Don Jenkins. I believe Jenkins should be fired before 2022 and the contracts of all racers should be extended
December 2020 saw the Deutsche RennKoalition (the German Hot Wheels Racing Coalition) fire the entire coaching staff of Team Mercedes following the infamous “Nuclear Fire Bomb'' incident of the 2019 Season. The RennKoalition made no changes to contracts of existing racers, but decided that German race strategy was no longer a viable path for the team. Before the new year, the organization hired an entire new staff, drafted two young AMG racers, and signed a new head coach Don Jenkins. Although Jenkins’ impressive record of three NCAA Hotwheels Championships with LSU promised success, my first few weeks with the team proved otherwise.
For starters, Jenkins seemed to have no control over the team. Beyond the lack of communication between the German speaking racers and Jenkins’ southern drawl, an early morning practice showed divisions forming in the team. Before training, two members of the 2019 “Firebomb” Team cornered one of the young AMG racers in the locker room. After an exchange of angry German shouts, the 2019 racers began to beat their younger teammate. While the fight was broken up before any serious injury, the AMG racer claimed his lucky racing gloves had been stolen. In addition, Jenkins made no effort to mend the differences between the racers.
In the days approaching the first match of the JUMP TOURNAMENT RACE, another brawl broke out. This time, the two young AMG racers attacked Jonas Voigt after their belongings had been burned in a “mysterious” gasoline fire at the team’s hotel. I spoke to Jonas at the hospital after the fight.
“Ya, they attacked me, ya,” Jonas explained with a bandage over his right eye, “And [Jenkins] doesn’t care. He is happy, ya, because we will race the Americans.”
Jonas, of course, was referring to Mercedes' then upcoming race against Team All American in the first round of the JUMP TOURNAMENT RACE. And what he said was true. At a team meeting just days before the match, Jenkins laughed off the conflict between racers claiming that his time at LSU gave him a near “prophetic ability” to predict the strategies of Team All American.
Jenkins was terribly wrong. What I saw at the JUMP TOURNAMENT RACE was not a race of anticipation or predication, but rather a total failure of Jenkins’ “American Strategy”. Jonas Voigt was unable to defeat a ‘67 Mustang as it came across the line backwards. After the loss, Jonas spoke to me outside the arena. Supposedly, his “tiefenwahrnehmung” (or depth perception), which was a key technique of his style of racing, had been impaired by the patch over his eye. Jenkins had told him that “American drivers don’t need two eyes.”
But more telling than any defeat, was one of the team's few “triumphs”. Approaching the final turn of the course, one of the Young AMG drivers had the clear lead over Team All American’s Pontiac. But, his car spun out as his “sweaty hands” lost grip of the wheel. By a strike of impossible luck, the Pontiac t-boned the AMG over the line and into first place.
As the young race ran out of his car to celebrate, he waved a pair of old driving gloves in his hands. Later explained in an interview with FOX, the young racer had received an apology note from a teammate for a fight earlier that spring.
“Ya, he gave me back my lucky gloves, ya. I haven’t won a single race all year without them. Ya, he gave me back my gloves, ya.”
While Mercedes was eliminated in overall points against Team All American in the first round, the racers were able to unify brilliantly and defend Germany’s racing legacy. While the Deutsche RennKoalition may believe turning towards American strategy is the path towards another JUMP TOURNAMENT RACE trophy, I see the future in the hands - and lucky gloves - of the German racers. So, let’s fire Don Jenkins and have a 2022 season built on camaraderie, brotherhood, and perhaps a bit of tiefenwahrnehmung.
Olivia Liu, '24
Sports, especially at the high school level, are extremely demanding. Both in-school and club sports practices often span a couple hours, much of which is occupied by constant movement. Workouts are strenuous, and students are expected to push themselves to reach their highest potential, whether it be in strength, speed, or agility.
The high physical (and mental) intensity of sports often leads to exhaustion. Along with the fatigue comes lack of motivation, and often, students are forced to slog through the pages of their assignments. The half-heartedness of their work routine can further result in lack of comprehension—it’s difficult to understand taught concepts if your greatest battle at the moment is staying awake. Students are left to arrive at class the following day only to be puzzled by the pop quiz a teacher gives. An additional effect of tiredness is a lower quality of work. Students attempt to rush through their assignments in pursuit of rest, sacrificing the time taken to thoroughly consider the formulas they use on a math assignment, quotes in their close readings, or lab analysis.
A big argument that uplifts athletes from those who do not play sports is that the daily practices, weekly sport games, and weekend home workouts develop good time management. Athletes are forced to find ways to squeeze homework time into their sports schedule, resulting in their keen awareness of the need for task efficiency, concentration, and use of idle time. However, productivity only comes with motivation, and again, the fatigue of playing a sport causes many students to both be easily distracted and unlikely to use unfilled time efficiently.
There’s also the elephant in the room: endless practices, bus rides, and late-night games at times make it impossible to complete all assigned tasks. Students often get home late; daily conversations with friends have at times turned to rants about how a late-night sports game or Saturday practices make homework and studying impossible to complete. Athletes’ tight schedules often force them to choose between getting enough sleep and finishing their assignments on time. Given the rigorous academic curriculums of both NCS and STA, the tough decision often favors sacrificing rest, leading students to become even more exhausted. Evidently, this leads to a vicious cycle.
One challenge of being a student-athlete, especially on the Close (given the compulsory sports requirement) is deciding which to prioritize. Logically, an academics-focused student would choose to exert more energy on their schoolwork, perhaps participating in a sport simply to meet the credit, not dedicating any more time than necessary. The opposite would be true to an athletics-driven student. Ironically, however, several students feel an imbalance that does not adhere to their desired focuses and priorities. They find themselves spending three hours on a sport without being particularly passionate or committed. Other students feel difficulty in prioritizing their tasks. Since both school and athletics are crammed into one day, both can seem like a significant part of each student’s commitments. Often, students hope to participate in more academically oriented extra-curricular activities, such as clubs, but are unable to due to the looming presence of athletic commitments. Thus comes the question of whether it's worth participating in a time-consuming sport that is not of particular interest or passion.
Of course, however, after-school sports are widely seen as an outlet to relaxing from the academic stress of an eight-hour school day. One student states, “Because it’s so much fun, you’re looking forward [to it]. It’s less of an obligation.” Without a break between classes and homework time, academics could weigh heavily on each student’s day—physical activity might be crucial to preventing a burnout. Sports provide another thing to think about other than how much schoolwork you have. In that sense, sports could be the way to refresh oneself, rather than a way to deplete energy.
For the majority of students on the Close, sports are a daily, integral part of school life. However, the push and pull of physical activity to academic study varies for each individual—each person’s balance is different. At times, it’s difficult to strike that equilibrium, leading to negative effects on either side. However, many would still argue that sports can offer an inclusive niche within a large student body, help maintain fitness, and aid in de-stressing from the school workload. Thus, the choice to prioritize academics or athletics falls largely in the hands of each student.
Elizabeth Khludenev, '23
Are you an NCS freshman on the fence about choosing your sport for the winter season? Maybe you’ve heard that swimmers’ hair turns to ice and cracks, or that crew condo’s roster goes from thirty to seven athletes in the first month. Perhaps you’ve wondered how pilates is considered a sport or what the squash team is like. Well, you are in luck. I’ve got the inside scoop on what our sports teams are really like straight from current athletes themselves. Compiled below is a list of NCS’s most popular winter sports that I have made in the hopes of giving underclassmen some insight on which winter sport they might want to sign up for this season.
Want to protect the nest? Basketball practices are daily and span two hours. Practices often include some form of conditioning such as running, sprinting, lifting, or agility. The rest of practice consists of passing and shooting drills as well as walkthroughs of plays. The team loves to play music as they practice and listens to everything from country to rap. Lindsay Weigmann ‘23 describes that since the basketball team “has less people on the court than other sports, we have a small team, so it allows everyone to become close and more easily trust and rely on teammates both on and off the court. It is a high energy sport and requires a lot of thinking when on the court because you have to be working through plays to get good shots off.” Despite basketball being known as a sport for tall athletes, Tabitha Chandler ’23 comments that “the team definitely does not follow that ideal this year,” herself being a mighty five feet and three inches.
Want to belly flop into the STA pool after a long hard day of tests? Swimmers have two options for practices: they can either go to morning practices (before school) on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays with after school practices on Wednesdays and Thursdays or vice versa. They also sometimes have practices on Saturdays. Practice itself consists mostly of the stroke freestyle since “that’s the most common stroke in meets,” comments Helen Yingling ’23. The lanes in the pool are grouped by speed and groups receive slightly different workouts depending on their level. The swim team has exciting traditions like the Blue-Gold meet, which is an intersquad meet right before Thanksgiving break organized by that year’s team captains. Yenna Chong ’23 comments that “other than the actual swimming, [she] loves drills that practice kicking because [she] can listen to music when her head is above the water.” To an underclassman, Chong would say that “swimming is such a fun way to get in really good workouts but also make cross-close friendships and it’s really a lot of fun.”
Indoor Climbing (Voyageur)
What other sport do you know that gets you to play bombardment and ultimate frisbee as cardio? Climbing meets daily for two hours and at various gyms in the DC area on Tuesdays. Practices usually consist of climbing the tower in the Athletic Center (AC) and working on specific routes (meaning only using holds of a specific color) to build technique and, sometimes, simply repeating the same route multiple times to build endurance. The team also gets to use the jungle gym which hangs from the ceiling in the AC and consists of rope ladders and rope climbs. Occasionally, the team does a “5,000 foot Friday” where the whole team works together to climb a total of 5,000 vertical feet on the climbing wall. Maddie Murnick ’22 comments that she thinks “the voyageur team becomes uniquely close because we all literally hold each other’s lives in our hands belaying one another.” Theo Barassi ’22 adds that she would “encourage underclassmen to give it a try, it’s a good mix of working out and fun, and we should take advantage of the fact that we have a rock wall.”
With courts situated smack dab in the middle of a full restaurant service, the squash team may as well be ordering appetizers between swings. The JV team practices four times a week while Varsity does five. After school, the team takes a bus down to the “Squash on Fire” courts and starts with basic stretches and drills. The team’s warm up rarely includes any running court sprints or difficult conditioning. Then, they split and spend ten minutes doing drills and getting feedback from coaches before going on to games. Jane Puryear ’23 says that “you don’t have to have played squash or be good at it to join.” She “joined squash freshman year with only taking a few lessons and did pretty well.” Audrey Scott ’23 comments on the team dynamic by saying that she has “really bonded with some seniors,” which she may not have done otherwise. The squash coach, Ronny, is well-known for his witty and sarcastic humor and outgoing personality. The team loves telling him about school drama and updating him on what’s happening in their lives.
Notorious for its exponential decrease in participants over the first couple weeks, crew conditioning is exactly what it sounds like–a season of working out and team bonding in preparation for the actual rowing season in the spring. The crew (pun intended) has practice five times a week, which will increase to six times after the winter break. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are dedicated to weight room workouts (cross training and lifting) and erg drills while the remaining Tuesdays and Thursdays are solely erg workouts. Caitlin Hollingshead ’23 says that “the team is very culture-based and focused on building relationships and trust, and we sometimes do reflections together after practice.” When asked what advice she would give to a freshman, Lauren Walker ’23 said, “I’d say that the sport is what you make it, you reap what you sow, but it’s a misconception that it’s unbearable.”
Maybe you’re interested in something more laid back and low commitment. Pilates meets twice a week in the room across from the weight room. It is focused on strengthening the core and maintaining balance in various positions. A large part of the practice focuses on mindfulness and, as Megan Chiang ’23 puts it, “being aware of the way the body moves.” It’s neither a fast nor an intense form of exercise and they mainly do stretches to build flexibility and low impact strength exercises. Sounds like a relaxing way to end the school day!
Perhaps you are looking for a sport that is more artistic. Dance team meets every day of the week but Friday in the studio located in the athletic center. The practices start with stretching and a core workout and then the team learns and practices choreography. Towards the end of the class, the team runs the whole dance as a class and sometimes in smaller groups. Katie Troup ’23 comments that “the dynamic is super fun, supportive, and a very welcoming environment. Since it is a small group, everyone bonds a lot and it’s a great way to make friends across different grade.” If you want to see them in action, you can watch the dance team during halftime of both NCS and STA basketball games!
Sports are an integral part of building cross-grade friendships in the NCS community. Whether it is on the court, in the pool, or in a studio, sports allow for a mental break, give students a time to forget about their academic responsibilities and to have fun with their classmates. I would advise anyone to try out a new sport that interests them and not be afraid to switch while there is still time to do so.
Sigrid Drefke, '23
The National Football League Players Association was created in 1956 to fight for the basic rights of players including getting safe equipment and clean jerseys. Since then, they have helped NFL players negotiate retirement benefits, aid community organizations, and have represented the players in hours. They have also written the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in conjunction with the NFL, which details how players will get 48% of revenue share, and other similar policies. They also more recently collaborated on amendments to the CBA surrounding changes due to COVID-19, such as 16-man practices and opt-outs of these practices for high-risk players. One of the most important and ongoing discussions in the NFL, however, has been about concussions.
Concussions have plagued the NFL and its players for years, and even with safer equipment and policies less conducive to concussions, hundreds of players suffer from concussions and their lasting effects every season. Oxford University has shown that concussions in former NFL players can even lead to depressive symptoms, along with numerous other mental side effects. Furthermore, one study that examined brains of deceased NFL players found that 99% of them had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which can lead to many mental detriments and even death. Along with all the medical, emotional, and physical effects, concussions can also cause financial side effects. One study published by Sage Journals found that concussions can cause players to lose $1,300,00 per year. However, the NFL has attempted to take some action against concussions. The NFL and other organizations have investigated the main causes of concussions in football and attempted to implement solutions that minimize them. However, from 2002-2007 the majority of players who were concussed during football games returned to play in less than 7 days, despite average amount of time recovering from concussions being 10 days, with studies stating that concussed people should never return to sports or physical activity less than a week after obtaining the injury. Furthermore, studies have also shown that in NFL seasons from 1996-2001 and seasons from 2002-2007, despite the NFL initiating many new protocols, concussions rates were remarkably similar. Overall, concussions have and continue to affect players in all aspects of their lives despite the safety protocols implemented by the NFL.
Despite the devastating effects concussions have had on the NFL in the past, new studies and information is constantly being conducted and gathered. However, if the NFL continues to make changes to prevent concussions, they must get feedback and suggestions from the players, to prevent the resistance to their protocols that have occurred in the past, such as with their new helmet policy. Furthermore, the NFL must stop their public relations agenda and show football as it actually is: a violent game where 13% of players get concussions. The NFL can attempt to decrease the number of concussions that happen, but they are an inevitable part of the game.
Many players have repeatedly criticized the NFL’s policies, making comments like “If I was an offensive player, I would want to get hit right in my face because I signed up for football. I didn't sign up for basketball. I didn't sign up for soccer. I signed up for football.” and “Long term, [a decline in health] is the nature of the game. If you play football for a long time, you are going to have those things happen.” These players know the dangers that football entails and still decide to play, so decisions that the NFL makes might upset them. Therefore, however the NFL chooses to act to prevent these terrible injuries, whether through increased padding or changing the rules, they must consult with the players.
"Joint Statement on Behalf of MLB, MLS, NBA, NHL, NFL and WNBA." NFL, 4 Mar. 2021, www.nfl.com/playerhealthandsafety/resources/press-releases/joint-statement-on-behalf-of-mlb-mls-nba-nhl-nfl-and-wnba. Accessed 17 Mar. 2021.
Nyaz Didehbani, C. Munro Cullum, Sethesh Mansinghani, Heather Conover, John Hart, Jr, Depressive Symptoms and Concussions in Aging Retired NFL Players, Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, Volume 28, Issue 5, August 2013, Pages 418–424, https://doi.org/10.1093/arclin/act028
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1. Casson IR, Viano DC, Powell JW, Pellman EJ. Twelve Years of National Football League Concussion Data. Sports Health. 2010;2(6):471-483. doi:10.1177/1941738110383963
Oritz, Aimee. "Learn the Symptoms in the Four Stages of CTE." The Boston Globe, 21 Sept. 2017, www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/09/21/symptoms-watch-for-four-stages-cte/Q1wniQOnQXH1bU8OibU3WJ/story.html. Accessed 17 Mar. 2021.
Resnick, Brian. "What a Lifetime of Playing Football Can Do to the Human Brain." Vox, 1 Feb. 2020, www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/2/2/16956440/super-bowl-2020-concussion-symptoms-cte-football-nfl-brain-damage-youth. Accessed 17 Mar. 2021.
Reyes, Lorenzo. "NFL Data Shows Concussions Increased Slightly in 2019, but League Touts 'New Benchmark.'" USA Today, 23 Jan. 2020, www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2020/01/23/nfl-concussions-increased-slightly-2019-season/4555094002/. Accessed 17 Mar. 2021.
Steifert, Kevin. "The NFL's latest safety measures face resistance from players." ESPN, 9 Aug. 2018, www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/24318483/how-nfl-latest-safety-measures-face-resistance-players-helmet-rule-concussions. Accessed 17 Mar. 2021.
"What to Expect After a Concussion." Beaumont, www.beaumont.org/conditions/what-to-expect#:~:text=Concussion%20recovery%20and%20treatment,week%20from%20sustaining%20the%20injury. Accessed 17 Mar. 2021.
Sage Stretch, '24
Since the beginning of the season, the NFL’s taunting rules have become a dominant source of complaints and jokes between players, fans, and management. The slogan “No Fun League,” is frequently used by fans who are frustrated by these penalties.
The exact wording of the unsportsmanlike taunting rule is “Using baiting or taunting acts or words that may engender ill will between teams.” This rule is not a new addition to the NFL, however this season’s officiating staff has chosen to emphasize taunting and helmet-initiated contact this season. Breaking this rule results in a fifteen-yard penalty, and two offenses from the same player can result in ejection from the game. This emphasis on the rule is not insignificant: it has resulted in thirty penalties in the first 10 weeks of the season, as compared to ten penalties in the entire 2020 season. In addition to the loss of yardage during the game, players can also be fined up to $10,300 for one violation, and up to $15,450 for the second one. The complaints about the frequency of this penalty dramatically increased after the Steelers vs. Bears game in Week 9 of this season. In the fourth quarter with less than four minutes left, on 3rd down and 8, Bears’ outside linebacker Cassius Marsh sacked Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger by the fifty yard line. Marsh then proceeded to celebrate with his teammates facing the Steelers sideline, but not directed at any player in particular. The referee called a taunting penalty which gave the Steelers a first down and allowed them to continue their drive and score a field goal. The Steelers eventually won the game, and most Bears fans credit their loss to that penalty.
This debate is not confined to spectators on Twitter, it has also added to the tension between players and NFL management. Many players and fans argue that these rules take the fun out of the games and celebrations. Because of the competitive nature of the NFL, players are inherently intense and celebrate after big plays, so many players and fans argue that the taunting rules diminish the players’ ability to have fun during games. Another frequent complaint is that these rules add to the excessive, rising number of penalties in the league, or that the penalty is too influential for an offense that occurs after the play. The fines to the players only add to the frustration over these rules. Very few NFL players achieve the massive contracts that are publicized, so these expensive fines, not only for taunting but also other seemingly unnecessary rules, appear to target players for doing their job. However, the arguments in favor of unsportsmanlike penalties also have a lot of support particularly with coaches and NFL management, who argue that the rules accomplish what they are meant for, reducing animosity between players and teams. They also create a professional and respectable environment for the employees of the league and reduce the chance of fights and brawls during or after games, if players have more meaningful consequences. Many coaches and owners believe that the passion that the players display during games can be preserved without the hostility that frequently accompanies it.
Thankfully, this uptick in specific penalties is actually very common for the NFL. Despite the consistent level of tension between teams and players, the number of taunting penalties in the past decade have been very low, so for this season, the referees are especially sensitive to unsportsmanlike conduct. However, the number of penalties will decrease, and competitive celebrations will increase again, so this debate will not have to continue for much longer.