Lettermans, fashion statement or sign of achievement?

Peyton Brown

     Letterman jackets historically have been a symbol of athletic achievement and a reward from a coach for above average-talent and effort exerted in a particular sport. Lettering does not only restrict itself to sports, but I will only be addressing the policy of lettering in sports here. Reference.com claims “Traditionally the athletic letter is associated with elite athletes.” This however seems to be a dying belief as many teams seem to be handing them out left and right.
     According to a recent survey of 200 Hudson High School students, the majority of freshman at our high school seem to believe that football is the easiest sport to letter in. This might be due to the fact that freshmen haven’t had nearly as much time in our school as upperclassmen. It also may be due to the influx of new letters. This however is explainable as many key players graduated the preceding year and this year many positions needed to be filled.
     Sophomores have a different view, with nearly 80 percent of the 50 surveyed claiming that bowling was the easiest sport to letter in. Their reasoning was that all those who were on the male team lettered. This is true; however, there was the fewest number of athletes in this sport, compared to others. The event of everyone lettering could be avoided if more had joined the team, but it is still unfortunate that lettering was only the cost of joining the team.
     Both juniors and seniors seem to be in agreement when it comes to which sport it is easiest to letter in. They believe it is swimming. This assertion is backed up by the fact that more than 70 percent of all those who were on the team last year lettered.
     It may seem that I am defending sports and the loosening of the lettering policy, but in reality I am pointing out some common misconceptions about lettering. The fact is it either getting simpler to letter in sports or just not difficult to letter in the first place. 
     A member of the swim team who wishes to remain anonymous claims, “ [Coach Matt Davis] has a time standard for who is able to letter, but in my opinion these time standards are very easy to achieve for most swimmers who actually commit to the sport for even   the entire swim season.” 
     This seems to reign true for many including Michael Inammorato, a first-year swimmer, who lettered with absolutely no previous swimming training. He had never competitively swum before this year, yet at the end of the season he earned the lettering time in the last meet.
     Varsity baseball player Kyle Hagy has an interesting mindset about the purpose of lettering. He initially said that one-third of the people who played varsity at one point had lettered, a number he saw as “completely fair.” He saw lettering as a way to inspire teammates to do better and “make it more challenging to make teammates work harder.” Many already believe this should be the purpose, but in this day and age a letterman is more like a participation trophy than a medal awarding a superb job. The fact that baseball has held out with the mentality of lettering resulting from excellence fills me with hope for other sports to follow suit.
     Michael Castrigano spoke on the behalf of the wrestling community. He had to stop wrestling after his sophomore year due to a knee injury. This enabled him to have a fresh memory of how lettering for wrestling used to be, and how it has changed. His view on who should letter is that it should be anyone who “can contribute to a varsity win.” The wording might need to vary per each sport, but I believe this may be the solution for the current problem of lettering ease. He put it beautifully saying there are “two ways to look at it.” Either you are one of the most talented athletes who already lettered and wishes to wear it with distinction, or you are one of the athletes in said sport that has not yet lettered and wishes to. The only way this would be possible is if the policy got easier or the athlete improved. Although the two options are attainable, the later is simpler and appeals to a larger crowd than the former.
     Regardless, times are changing and along with them so are the policies on lettering. They undoubtedly vary to extremes when it comes to different sports. In my opinion, I believe that all coaches and sports should either choose to have lettering be an easily accomplished feat or a tremendous challenge so that only the crème de la crème obtain the lofty title of lettering.

    If these coaches are not in agreement, like how it is now, there is an influx of jackets for one sport, and an absence them in many others. The sport on the back may be different, but the large “H” representing Hudson is the same on all jackets. Shouldn’t it take the same amount of effort and drive to get that “H” no matter the sport?  

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2012-04-19 10:05:25

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