The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools athletic programs support a no-cut policy, based on the belief that all students should have the opportunity to experience and contribute to a team, regardless of skill level. Having a no-cut policy has many positive attributes. There is a downside of a no-cut policy also, particularly in team sports such as basketball and volleyball, where large teams are not always easy to manage. The result can mean reduced playing time, and less individual attention at practices. We have found that the benefits of providing our students with an equal opportunity to join a team, or a no-cut policy, far outweigh the disadvantages.
With this opportunity comes responsibilities. The athletes are expected to attend all practice sessions (typically 1 - 1.5 hours after school) and contests. Absences must be excused by the coach, and should be detailed in a parental note. Generally, half of the contests will be held at other schools, which requires that our athletes travel (by bus or school van) during the week. They often do not return to school until 7:30pm or later on these evenings. Athletes should ensure that they have appropriate clothing and especially footwear for participation in their selected activity. Any physical limitations or medical restrictions should be communicated with the coach before the first practice. Homework schedules and healthy sleep patterns are part of the student's responsibility.
Our no-cut policy refers to the opportunity to join a team—it does not guarantee playing time; however all athletes who adhere to the coach's training guidelines will participate in competitions.
Student athletes need support from their coach, teammates and their families in order to meet the challenges that an athletic team offers. They are experiencing an increased school load, and may also have many additional interests outside of school. For some of our students, participation on a Lab School team is the first competitive team experience they have had, and juggling their many commitments is a part of their learning.
In order that the Middle School athletic programs serve the athletes during the season, and also best prepare them for potential participation in High School, the program's focus is on skill development, knowledge of the activity, basic strategies, and the rules of the sport.
Being part of an athletic team at any level requires commitment and dedication. Most students who fully commit themselves to the programs will see marked improvements by the end of the season. Enjoyment of the activity is critical to the motivation of the athletes, but they should expect to work hard, and understand that success will not come overnight. Joining a team offers countless opportunities for personal development beyond the attainment of physical skills. Athletes learn self-discipline, the value of hard work and self-sacrifice, goal setting, problem solving, self-evaluation, and team work. There is much to learn about yourself and others in winning and losing; we hope our athletes will develop perseverance, and excellent sportsmanship.
These are difficult skills and attitudes to master; we hope that our Middle School student-athletes will make a healthy start, so they can fully develop as athletes in High School and beyond.