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School stresses academics in athletics

Football, girls soccer, volleyball, girls cross country and boys soccer rank about top 15 in state in academics


When talking about student-athletes in our culture today, often the “student” portion of the title is de-emphasiszed or even ignored.

But at Estacada High School, it's the whole package that counts.

With the recent announcement of the Fall 2012 Top 10 academic all-state teams in each sport, Estacada was prominently involved. Leading the way was the Estacada football team with a team GPA of 3.25, good for fifth at the 4A level. In fact, they would have been fourth at the 6A level.

Also honored was the Estacada girls soccer team, which boasted a 3.68 GPA, good for seventh at the 4A level.

“I’m proud of those kids involved in extra curricular because they need to know how to budget their time,” principal Scott Sullivan said. “This data shows that they can do it. Our students and coaches put education on top of the priority list, and that’s one of the things we look at when we evaluate our coaches is their commitment to the whole child, not just on the field.”

Just because the other four fall programs weren’t featured in the Top 10, however, doesn’t mean those teams are failing academically. In fact, three of the four other fall programs finished in the top 15.

The girls cross country program was 11th at the 4A level with a 3.69 GPA, boys soccer was 14th with a 3.05 GPA and volleyball was 15th with a 3.5 GPA. Boys cross country did not have a team GPA above 3.0 and was not among the top 25 schools at the 4A level.

Even more reassuring for Sullivan and athletic director Bonnie Erickson is that this recognition is nothing new to the Ranger program. Last fall, five of the six programs finished in the top 12 in their respective sports, with football leading the way once again with a second-place finish.

“It’s nice to know that we get that recognition,” head football coach Brigham Baker said. “Right now, everything is focused on football, but that only lasts 12 weeks in the fall, and then has nothing to do with the rest of their life. Their grades are what will determine what they do with the rest of their life. It’s obviously exciting as a coach.”

For Baker, however, there isn’t necessarily a larger emphasis on academics as much as there is a focus on making sure kids are successful throughout their life.

“We don’t talk about academics too much,” he said. “Every single kid knows that all of the coaches want them to be successful academically though, and we’ll go down every avenue we can to make sure the kids are successful academically. The biggest thin we bring up to kids is time management even though we have probably the most lenient practice times in the state.”

Obviously, as a coach, the balance between success on the field and success in the classroom isn’t always one that is easy to balance. For Baker, it comes down to the traditions and standards that have been put in place and passed down from one class to the next.

“I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a premium on winning games and that it wasn’t the No. 1 thing,” he said. “But the overall direction of our program is more important, and part of what makes it neat in having a program installed is that we see this academic recognition. It’s all icing on the cake.”

For the girls soccer program and head coach Paul Parker, the premium placed on academics is even higher.

“When they need time for school during practice, I let them go,” he said. “I’m always checking their grades and staying on top of them. If I see a kid that needs time, I force them to take the time, because first and foremost the kids need to feel good about themselves in school before they can feel good about their performance elsewhere.”

The practice of staying on top of students’ grades is something that comes from higher up, where Erickson starts with grade checks that occasionally gets sent out to coaches.

While academics clearly haven’t been an issue for the Rangers this year, it’s despite the leniency applied to academic standards at the school level.

For years, Estacada held itself to a higher standard than the minimum required by the OSAA, however the board recently decided to fall in line with OSAA requirements. Those require a student to pass a minimum of five classes from their previous term while also being on track to graduate. There is no GPA requirement, however, Erickson says it’s nearly impossible to have less than a 2.0 given the need to pass five classes.

For a full list of winners from this year and previous years, visit osaa.org.




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