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Editorial: Recognition to the ‘Letter’

Varsity letters should be for more than just athletics.

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As spring rolls around it is common to see Tyrone athletes sporting their new varsity lettermen’s jackets. These jackets are warm, bold, and custom-fitted with the iconic orange “T” on the chest. The letter is adorned with gold pins representing achievement in varsity sports, including football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, cross country, track, swimming, wrestling, baseball, softball, tennis, golf, cheerleading, and even weightlifting. Under each pin are bars representing the years of achievement in that sport.

Varsity jackets are a great way for students to showcase a personal achievement, show school pride, and have something to remember these accomplishments even after high school.

Awarding varsity jackets and letters for extracurricular and academic achievement would not only show recognition to the students who don’t participate in sports, it would also shine a light on the athletes who participate in more than just sports.”

But why are athletics the only achievements recognized on varsity jackets?

Don’t get me wrong, athletes are extremely deserving of recognition; their hard work, dedication, and overall physical abilities are all traits that indisputably deserve recognition. It is absolutely valid and justifiable for athletes receive this attention, but I feel that students who excel in academics and other extracurricular activities also deserve the same level of recognition.

Many Tyrone students put forth just as much, if not more, time and effort into extracurricular activities as our athletes do in sports. How is it fair that only athletes get the option to wear a quality jacket that displays their achievements?

Awarding varsity jackets and letters for extracurricular and academic achievement would not only show recognition to the students who don’t participate in sports, it would also shine a light on the athletes who participate in more than just sports.

The new pins and patches would also serve as advertisement to underclassmen; if a freshman sees a non-athletic senior sporting a letter for a club they didn’t even know existed, it could spark increased interest and participation.

This is not a new idea; there are plenty of schools in our area and across the country that award letters and patches to their choirs and other clubs.  Some schools even award varsity letters to students for maintaining a high GPA or achieving a high score on the SAT.

So which extracurricular activities should be eligible for varsity letters?

Tyrone is overflowing with students achieving in many different clubs and organizations. Members of POPs Extension rehearse daily to learn music and choreography to perform for events year round across Tyrone. The Drama Club dedicates months into perfecting a show, giving up almost every day of the week to run the show over and over again to put on for the community. The Mock Trial Team works tirelessly after school and on weekends developing a case to present in court, along with memorizing lines, rules, and characters. Members of the Speech Team, which is the oldest club at Tyrone, spends a lot of time preparing for only a few seasonal competitions. Other organizations such as Scholastic Quiz League, Eagle Eye, FFA, FBLA, HOSA etc. dedicate similar amounts of time and effort to their respective activities, and are therefore deserving of a varsity letter.

Academically, the students in Tyrone are flourishing, and it is apparent. Being a National Blue Ribbon School is proof that our students have achieved on a nationally recognized scale when it comes to academics. Many students, along with passing their Keystones and PSSA’s with advanced scores, maintain a high GPA annually and score well above average on the SAT. Students in National Honors Society don’t only keep their GPA up yearly, but also perform at least 40 hours of community service annually to maintain membership.

With all of this achievement at Tyrone, it is almost a crime that it is not being better recognized.

It is very possible and simple to fix this issue: letters and patches could be awarded by the coach or advisor of each extracurricular according to their role, achievements, and years in the club at the advisor’s discretion.

With every new idea, it is expected that arguments should come from every side. The argument could arise that not everyone should get a varsity letter, that the point of a “letter” is to award the “elite.”

We’re a Blue Ribbon School, and we advertise that accomplishment all over the building and the community. I think that all our students should have that same luxury.”

I strongly believe that students in all of these clubs have achieved to the fullest extent. If the argument were to be brought farther however, it could be justified with the fact that many of the clubs are their own version of “varsity” (POP’s, Mock Trial, and Drama Club all require audition), and that the coaches wouldn’t just throw letters at every member of the club, that there would be a required level of achievement to receive a letter.

Another argument could arise that varsity jackets, letters, and patches are specifically for athletes only. To that, all I can say is that is unfair. Students around Tyrone are achieving in every aspect of life, from athletics, academics, and extracurriculars. How is it fair for just the athletes to be recognized, when others work so hard, and succeed, in other areas?

Tyrone has many brilliant and talented students who achieve amazing things and they should all be recognized. As I mentioned before, we’re a Blue Ribbon School, and we advertise that accomplishment all over the building and the community. I think that all our students should have that same luxury.

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38 Comments

38 Responses to “Editorial: Recognition to the ‘Letter’”

  1. Joni on April 6th, 2016 8:46 pm

    It would be nice to get one to remember the high school days when u graduate

    [Reply]

  2. Dori on April 11th, 2016 8:26 am

    First, I would like to say that remembering your high school days is what a yearbook is for. Second, I understand that all students want to be recognized for their achievements, but you can come up with other ways to do this. A varsity letter jacket was made back in the good old days specifically for athletes. It was made for jocks to show off everything they’ve done on a field for their school. I don’t understand why our generation is so focused on the concept of “everyone is a winner” or “participation medals,” because that is basically the whole point of this side of the argument. Yes, you must work hard in all of these extra-curricular activities, but come up with a different piece of clothing to show it. I believe that you should focus on making your school better in other ways before you try to get all students letter jackets. After all, it’ll only hide away in your attic for the rest of your life.

    [Reply]

    Anonymous Reply:

    I would have to respectfully disagree with you Dori. The idea behind receiving a varsity letter in this way is to acknowledge what a student has done throughout their career in high school. Lettering in football is quite easy actually. My brother lettered in football all 4 years of high school. His freshman year he lettered because he was on the kick return team. To letter in football you have to play a certain amount of quarters (I’m unsure about the exact number), but the point is, he would only be in for a couple of plays a game and he still lettered. Did you know that at Tyrone you can letter in weightlifting if you go to the weight room enough times after school? I believe that the author isn’t writing this because she wants a “participation ribbon” as you said. She is writing this, I believe, because she, as do many other students, excel in several areas. Also, as I understand it, they would not just be giving the letters away and not everyone will have one. The idea is to recognize excellence in an activity that a student participates in. I do not see the harm that is caused by allowing other students to receive varsity letters, if they are deserved. The problem is, the “jocks” as you call them that receive these letters are exactly as jocks are described. They think that they are better than everyone else, and that they deserve more than the rest of the school population, and this is simply not true. So, before you immediately jump to the conclusion that this generation is terrible because we all want participation medals for everything that we are involved in, talk to one of us, we’ll tell you the truth.

    [Reply]

    Dori Reply:

    SORRY DUDE. I don’t appreciate the personal attacks. Just speaking my mind here. Dori out

    [Reply]

  3. Donnie Madison on April 13th, 2016 8:46 am

    I don’t understand how you earn a letter in weight lifting. I agree with Dori her argument on that why is everyone so focused on participation awards. I hope one day I receive a letter for going to lunch everyday. Lol.

    [Reply]

    Anonymous Reply:

    Here’s the thing that we need to understand: Athletic letters require certain criteria to receive letters, whether it be playing time or points attained during a student’s athletic career. If letters were to be awarded to extracurricular activities, the same concept would be implemented: a certain amount of achievement would have to be met before attaining a letter! People dedicate time and work to weight lifting, and although it may be a personal achievement, it is an achievement nonetheless. The point of giving letters to extracurricular activities is not meant to award “participation”, it will award ACHIEVEMENT. And believe it or not, it doesn’t have to be athletic to be an achievement.

    [Reply]

  4. Dori on April 13th, 2016 8:46 am

    Also, Tyrone Eagle Eye News, can you explain to me how it would be fair to open up letter jackets to extracurricular clubs and only give them to specific individuals? This would be the same “problem” that you’re worried about. If you set standards for art club, what about the students who are in that club, but don’t receive one? They will complain too, and the cycle will start all over again. PARTICIPATION MEDALS are not what we need

    [Reply]

    Paige Umholtz Reply:

    These aren’t participation medals, and honestly, your comment doesn’t even make sense. There will be a criteria for each club, and if a student in that club does not reach that criteria, then they don’t receive a letter. That is not giving away participation medals because they worked for what they received. If someone doesn’t meet the criteria, they don’t get a letter because you have to earn it. It’s quite simple actually. Not participation medals, but people will be recognized for their hard work. If it was a participation medal, then everyone will have one, but they won’t. I’m not even sure you read the article because if you had, you would have seen her explanation on this.

    [Reply]

    Anonymous Reply:

    I find your argument to be flawed because you say you do not want “participation medals”, yet you say it is unfair to not award letters to everyone who participates. In athletics, letters are only awarded to athletes that achieve and meet certain requirements for the letter; they aren’t just handed out. The same concept would be implemented into extracurriculars. The letters would encourage work ethic and maybe even introducing goals of achievement into students who want a varsity letter. They encourage hard work and implementing them into extracurricular activities gives more students a chance to achieve in the same way athletes do. You say that students will become upset if they do not reach the achievement for varsity letters, but the same thing happens in athletics; there is no real difference. I do not understand where you stand on this issue–are you upset about letters becoming “participation medals” or is it unfair that letters would not be handed out to everyone?

    [Reply]

  5. Kasey Engle on April 13th, 2016 12:55 pm

    “Dori”, providing varsity letter jackets to extracurricular activities other than sports most certainly would not be based on participation and the idea that “everyone is a winner”. The idea of lettering in a varsity sport is to recognize the individuals who excel in that particular activity. Just because you join a team, doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a varsity letter. Coming from an athlete like myself, I know that it takes time and dedication to excel in what you do and gain recognition. I see absolutely no difference whatsoever in excelling on the basketball court compared to excelling on the musical stage, in the court room for Mock Trial, or even in the community providing service. All of these activities, being athletically involved or not, require an extreme amount of hard work and dedication from students, and all deserved to be recognized. Also, before bashing this Blue Ribbon school, please find a way to be taught not to contradict yourself. You say that beginning to incorporate more activities into the lettering system would be like handing out participation awards, and then proceed to say that it is unfair to only award those who excel? Do you want people to be excluded or not? Back to my final point, it doesn’t matter what activity it is, if there is hard work and dedication involved that leads you to success, recognition and a letter is well deserved.

    [Reply]

  6. #closethanger on April 13th, 2016 3:18 pm

    Varsity jackets are not awarded, they have to be bought. #justanotherdustcollector

    [Reply]

    Kasey Engle Reply:

    To get the jacket one must have at least two varsity letters in the first place, and the clubs/activities I mentioned don’t do that. So if you would have read my argument I discussed why LETTERS should be given, not JACKETS.

    [Reply]

  7. Kenny McKernan on April 13th, 2016 9:23 pm

    I’m fine with participants in extra curricular activities earning a varsity letter as long as standards are set that they need to achieve. However, I disagree with the idea of students being able to earn a varsity letter for academic achievements.

    [Reply]

  8. Dixon Miaz on April 14th, 2016 8:20 am

    Letters are chill man but nah not letterman jackets. They are for athletes, it is tradition. Leave the current rule in stone and don’t change it. Who brought up this issue anyway? Why is this even an issue? Give them rewards for excelling but don’t give them a jacket that has always been used for athletes.

    [Reply]

  9. Donnie Madison on April 14th, 2016 8:23 am

    “Kasey” it’s not so much how they excel on the musical stage, but the fact that letters are given to ATHLETES for their great accomplishments accomplishments.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letterman_(sports) – if you would like to right click and go to the web address, you can actually find out the true meaning behind a “Letter” and what it originated for. Maybe this article just needs a little bit more research rather than all these “participation Accomplishments”. Why ruin the american culture of a letter for something like chorus, when you could do something more reasonable like a cute trophy that says participation on it like a normal society. This is just destroying the purpose of a letter. They are made for varsity athletics in high school, and the collegiate level. So “Kasey” its not if you work hard, you deserve a letter.

    [Reply]

    Haley Butina Reply:

    Your belief that American culture revolves around ONLY athletics is incorrect. One of America’s biggest industries is, believe it or not, the arts and entertainment industry. People around the world recognize America for their TV shows, movies, actors, actresses, and singers. These people and industries are built on the choirs and other activities that according to your comment, are only worthy of a “cute trophy that says participation”. The success of these industries proves that activities such as choirs require more than participation, and there is definitely achievement possible.

    [Reply]

    Gina Gavazzi Reply:

    As an extremely involved member of the fine arts program at Tyrone, I find it very insulting that you’re implying that my hard work in chorus is deserving of a “cute trophy that says participation”. I have worked extremely hard in chorus and have also participated in PMEA district and regional chorus festivals. Frankly, I find it ridiculous that you’re insinuating that my countless hours of hard work in singing are somehow less than an athlete’s hard work in their sport. I just feel that the purpose of a letter is to recognize a student’s accomplishments in ALL areas. Hard work is hard work whether it’s on a football field or on a stage.

    [Reply]

  10. Noah D'Angelo on April 14th, 2016 8:36 am

    I totally agree with Donnie.

    [Reply]

  11. Paige Umholtz on April 14th, 2016 8:37 am

    To all the Bellwood commenters, and I know you are from Bellwood, why don’t you concern yourselves with your own school. This doesn’t affect you and, as Dori said, “focus on making your own school better first.”

    [Reply]

  12. Strength Coach Steve Everhart on April 14th, 2016 8:37 am

    Donnie,

    Your remark about earning a letter for eating lunch is really quite funny–and prophetic.

    We live in a morbidly obese nation–the fattest in the world–one that glorifies overeating with highly popular reality shows like “Man Versus Food” and entire 24/7 networks devoted to shoving it in the pie-hole. At least we lead the world in something–diabetes.

    At the high school we reward healthy hard work through letters in weightlifting. Students of all types sweat it out for at least one 9-week marking period in the high school fitness room to earn one. 80%-90% of these students are athletes whose coaches want them to improve their competitiveness, but non-athletes also are eligible–because, quite frankly, many of them out-lift our team athletes. I can’t express how proud I am of the nearly 400 students who use the facility each year after school. We’ve gotten them off the couch for an hour.

    A great school is so much more than just the National Blue Ribbon it gets for academics. What I am hearing from these highly articulate students is that they live in a society that glorifies athletics–one that cannot build enough multi-million dollar stadiums in which to play games, replete with artificial turf–even in cash-strapped districts and communities like Philipsburg and Bald Eagle Area and Altoona–yet we do little to recognize the intellectual work on which our nation’s economic future depends. A Weightlifting or National Honor Society letter emblem is a small, inexpensive recognition of what should matter most. Yes, every varsity jacket eventually sits in a closet. But our kids will wear the character that it represents long after.

    [Reply]

  13. Anna Baran on April 14th, 2016 8:47 am

    “A varsity letter (or monogram) is an award earned in the United States for excellence in school activities” (Wikipedia, 2015).

    References

    2015. Varsity letter. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varsity_letter

    [Reply]

  14. concerned park bench on April 14th, 2016 9:14 am

    Thank you SO MUCH for posting this. I’ve always wanted to see more progressive changes happen in this school. I identify as a park bench, and I’ve been in contact with other benchkin on the topic of creating a club/support group right here in Tyrone to help any struggling bench cope with their lifestyle. Seeing as this is an extracurricular activity, I would LOVE to earn my own jacket and have all of our members receive them as well. Thank you so much for your tolerance!
    I’ve always wanted to feel rewarded and special for doing what I do best as a park bench: sitting around doing nothing and letting people sit all over me.

    -Oakwood Bench III, Benches of Tyrone Club President

    [Reply]

    Haley Butina Reply:

    It is comments like these that make the issue of varsity jackets and athletic elitist attitudes SO APPARENT. This comment implies that the students in extracurricular activities “sit around and do nothing and let people sit all over them.” This kind of ignorance and lack of respect for other students, activities, talents, skills, and achievement just further proves my point that the integration of athletics and extracurricular recognition is necessary. Students need to learn how to appreciate the things that they cannot do. The recognition of all achievement, even if it was just in something as small of a varsity letter, might be one step closer to acceptance.

    [Reply]

    Unloved Water Fountain Reply:

    Exactly. I provide a service day in and day out. It is my job to prevent dehydration, and I believe that the Fountain Folk are an unappreciated populace. We have feelings too. I would like to extend a hand to fountains, benches, tables, closets, and sinks everywhere. Let us fight for our right to letter! Let us fight for our recognition for our great achievements!

    [Reply]

    Sad Toilet Reply:

    I also provide a service, and that is to flush people’s toxic waste, and spit- up. Without me, how would people go to the bathroom? All appliances and useful tools deserve a letterman’s jacket too. I am also willing to extend a hand to vacuums, shredders, garbage cans, sinks, bathtubs, etc. We all have a unique job that deserves to be recognized.

    [Reply]

  15. A.J. Grassi on April 14th, 2016 9:42 am

    Oh Bellwood… You should take part in your own school issues before you take part in ours, for example– like winning a Backyard Brawl matchup?

    [Reply]

  16. Levi Raling on April 14th, 2016 11:20 am

    Click here to see the full report on interscholastic varsity jackets, and what actions are being taken around the Country to equalize opportunity for non-athletes.
    http://www.vevo.com/watch/rick-astley/never-gonna-give-you-up/GB1108700010

    [Reply]

    Rick Astley Reply:

    Dude… it literally says in the link “Never Gonna Give you Up”

    [Reply]

  17. Rae Bonsell on April 14th, 2016 12:31 pm

    Lettering in extra-curricular activities would not only be a way to reward the students who work hard in their activities, but also encourage other students to join the activities and work to excel in them as well. Many students who are in activities such as Mock Trial, HOSA, FBLA, FFA, and other groups work very hard in those groups and activities but receive little to no recognition because they are not athletic activities. Some students work harder in these groups than some of the students in sports. How is it fair that students who excel and work very hard in their extra-curricular activities receive no recognition or reward, but athletic students who hardly participate are still eligible to receive letters and awards despite their lack of hard work?

    It’s not fair, in any sense of the word.

    It would be a very smart move, a very encouraging move to allow students to letter in extra-curricular activities.

    [Reply]

  18. Kenny McKernan on April 14th, 2016 1:50 pm

    Ignore my previous comment. I’ve put a little more thought into it and have now come to the conclusion that varsity letters are for athletes. I’m not saying that an achievement by an extra curricular participant did not require work or is not important, its just that varsity letters and jackets are meant for athletes. Giving a letter to someone other than an athlete is like giving the Stanley Cup to the winner of the Super Bowl because they worked really hard. I understand that you put a lot of time in to your activities but that doesn’t mean you get a letter. You can’t win in award that is in a different category from the category you are in.

    [Reply]

    Paige Umholtz Reply:

    This is the thing, letters are not just for athletes. At many other schools letters are not just for athletes. I don’t understand why people are so caught up on the idea that athletes are better than everyone else and they need to be celebrated. All we are asking is to be recognized for our achievements. But many people are too bull headed to accept that. In fact, you Kenny, would have the opportunity to letter in other things. But unfortunately, you don’t want to allow other the opportunity.

    [Reply]

    Aj Grassi Reply:

    However, we are not other schools. “Many other schools” are those in large urban areas where academic and extracurricular competition is highly arduous. At Tyrone, I have found that its not difficult to pass a class and excel in them among my 130 plus classmates. If we were in inner city Pittsburgh and were ranked in the top of our class or club, I see it fit to award recognition to those who have truly achieved a level of high academic excellence. Now I am not trying to say here at Tyrone no one deserves acknowledgment for their academic achievements, but the competition at Tyrone is not even close to the ferocity to that of a much, Much, larger school. That is why other schools award monograms for extracurricular and academics.

    [Reply]

    Haley Butina Reply:

    Okay, if you’re going to compare academics at bigger interstate schools, compare athletics as well. Do you still think athletes deserve the letter when compared to a large urban school like you are saying?

    Kenny McKernan Reply:

    We aren’t saying that athletes are better than others. It just doesn’t make sense to change the tradition of the letter just cause some kids feel left out. You don’t give out an award meant for the athletic category to non-athletic categories.

    [Reply]

    Haley Butina Reply:

    The only argument that you hold here is “varsity letters are for athletes and that’s just how it’s always been”. While I respect your opinion, I ask you to consider and think over what you are saying, and to recognize what that means. Your argument is basically “it has always been that way, it should just stay that way.” You even recognize the dedication and hard work put into other clubs, and you respect it! You just have ingrained in your mind that letters are for athletes. It’s a mindset. The system of lettering was created years ago, yes, for athletics, but during a time where extracurriculars were not as popular or successful as they are today. I am asking to change the mindset that varsity athletes are only for athletes, because this a man-made thought and mindset. If we changed this now, our kids may not even ever be aware of the fact that letters were once for athletes only. This is a time for change, and it is a change that can be made. If we never changed anything, and dismissed any new idea simply because “it has always been like this,” imagine where the world would be today.

    [Reply]

  19. Anonymous on April 14th, 2016 1:58 pm

    As a member of numerous clubs and organizations and a varsity letter winner myself, I see this as a unique issue. In this case, as with most, I believe that a moderate stance may be the most effective. On a sports team, each athlete dedicates time and effort in order to succeed. However, time and effort does not guarantee an athlete a letter. They must meet certain criteria first. For some sports like soccer, football, and basketball, and athlete must compete in varsity games for a certain amount time throughout the season. For track and field, an athlete must score a certain number of points by placing in events. Only after these criteria are met in competition is an athlete awarded a varsity letter.

    My problem with simply awarding letters to clubs is that without certain standards to be met, it would be hard to differentiate a letter from a participation ribbon. But I do not believe that exactly is what the author is suggesting we do. For some clubs, it would not be difficult to come up with criteria for a letter similar to what we see in sports. Many of the clubs here, like Speech Team, Mock Trial, and Scholastic Quiz League, compete in interscholastic events and members score points for their team. It would be easy to say that one could letter in Mock Trial, for example, if they scored a certain number of points for their team in a trial. For Quiz League, we could require that a certain number of questions be answered in order to receive a letter. Regardless of whether I think we should, I would have a hard time arguing against giving letters to members of clubs like these. Can we deny a letter to a competitor on an interscholastic team because their competition isn’t athletic?

    Academic achievements get a bit more cloudy. While requirements could be set for student to receive academic letters, I’m not sure it’s necessary, and it might even defeat the purpose of varsity letters. National Honors Society members are recognized at graduation, and high-achievers on the SAT are recognized in front of the school board. Those with qualifying GPA’s a recognized on the honor role and receive free sundae’s. Seniors receive scholarships for their grades as well. Furthermore, students don’t achieve high grades or scores as a part of a team or an organization, so a varsity letter may not be the most appropriate way to reward grades.

    Though I think that the efforts of our fine arts department are grossly underrecognized at times, I’m am not really in favor of awarding letters there, either. Again, like academic achievements, students don’t ‘compete’ like they do in sports or some clubs. I know the author wants to reward these students for their hard work and dedication with letters, but I have a hard time differentiating between a participation ribbon and a letter for participating in a musical.

    I respectfully disagree on some of the points made in the article, but, of course, that doesn’t make them wrong. Regarding these comments, humanity continues to amaze me. The mainstream media provides a poor model, but personal attacks are no way of debating an issue, nor will they make up for a lack of substance and maturity in an argument.

    [Reply]

  20. Paul on April 14th, 2016 7:20 pm

    This could easily be solved by awarding something different for these clubs. Letters and letterman jackets are for athletes while the people in clubs could receive something different. Letters and letterman jackets are not the only options to award success!! I do agree that these students go unrecognized but a letter which is usually for athletes? This would only cause controversy and water down what these letters mean. With these letter jackets, there would be ridicule and maybe even fighting. I’m sure these clubs could come up with some great ideas instead of a letter jacket that went out of style years ago!

    [Reply]

  21. Zachary Taylor on April 14th, 2016 7:33 pm

    The idea of wanting a letterman jacket or letter for participating in any group is stupid. Sorry you aren’t athletic and didn’t get one in high school. Suck it up. Life is unfair. Once you move on to the real world and out of high school you will realize you have to be the best to actually get recognition for something. Certain awards/medals/achievements are only given for certain fields. A scientist who discovers a cure for cancer isn’t going to win the Medal of Honor. You get recoginition for what you do in your field and each field has certain awards. Athletics have the letterman jacket or a letter. Arts have their own awards. Creating the same awards for everyone defeats the entire purpose and makes earning the award less special. Don’t turn the letter into a participation award.

    [Reply]

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Editorial: Recognition to the ‘Letter’