An annual report on the ETHS athletic program given to the District 202 School Board on Nov. 17 highlighted an overall increased participation in sports and an increase in grades by participants. Also mentioned were several highlights from the year and some areas where athletics could be improved.
The ETHS athletic program made history over the past year in several arenas. Girls track and field took 4th place at the state finals, making it their 30th top 10 finish, the most in Illinois, with Parker English being named Gatorade Athlete of the Year for Illinois Track and Field.
The boys golf team had their best finish in ETHS history placing 7th in the state. Baseball tied for the furthest advancement in State playoffs, making the Elite 8 SuperSectional after beating New Trier.
The girls water polo team had the second most wins in history with 22. The girls basketball team tied for the most wins over two seasons with 49. Four ETHS coaches were honored as Coach of the Year: Kevin Auger, Mike Ellis, Elliot Whitefield and George Woolridge.
“So it was a great year for us athletically speaking,” said Chris Livatino, ETHS Athletic Director. “I think the most exciting thing for us was the increase in participation across the board,” he continued.
Participation: Increases and Challenges
There was a 6.4% increase in seasonal participation from last year and a 3-year jump of 21.8%. “Seasonal participation” means athletes are counted for each sport they participate in, so a three-sport athlete is counted 3 times.
Female participation in sports increased 10.8% in one year; 26.4% over the last two years. Participation in sports for black males increases by 17.3% in one year.
One of the reasons participation continues to increase, said Mr. Livatino, is because ETHS is “constantly working on building a bridge between the high school and the kids that are coming up.”
He cited a new “Multi Sport Challenge” where more than 100 middle school kids came to ETHS on the last day of winter break to experience multiple sports. He also cited the Girls Play Sports program, now in its fourth year, where high school athletes go into the grade schools and share various sports with 4th and 5th grade girls.
“One area we have to do a better job on is to increase participation in sports for male and female Latinos and black females,” said Mr. Livatino. He described taking a group of Latino student athletes to the Hispanic Athletic Summit sponsored by Wheeling High School to zero in on what can be done to provide more opportunities and expose more Latinos to the world of sports. From that Summit, the athletic department plans to create a Latino Student Athlete Advisory Council to help identify ways to involve more Latino students in sports. The goal, he said, would be to have all sports teams be representative of the ETHS student body.
While participation in sports continues to grow and there is hope that it will grow further, there has been no growth in the number of coaches to support the increase. Mr. Livatino said he hopes the school can look for ways to add more coaches to staff.
Grades and the Benefit of Sports
The average semester GPA for an athlete at ETHS is 3.53. For the last five years, the average GPA has been 3.48 or higher. Of 33 varsity teams, 31 have team GPAs above 3.0 average; 24 teams exceed 3.5 team GPA according to the report.
“The academic achievement of our athletes is truly remarkable and something to be pointed out,” said Mark Metz, Board member and ETHS baseball coach. “It seems to be proven, and I don’t know which is the chicken and which is the egg, but our athletes do really well in school. However that is happening, it’s a good thing and we need to expand that, so I appreciate your efforts.”
Mr. Metz went on to discuss advantages of participation in more than one sport.
“A lot has been written about the benefits that kids of this age derive from playing more than one sport and also the dangers, on the other side of that coin, for kids that concentrate so heavily on a single sport. Are we giving any thought to how we make it more feasible for students to play more than one sport?”
Mr. Livatino agreed and said part of the process will need to be to “work on the education of feeder programs. A lot are year-round programs that they have to sustain.” Many kids enter high school with a one-sport mentality because that is all they have been able to play, he said.
Mr. Metz mentioned the possibility of adding more “no cut sports” to increase opportunities for kids who want to play a second sport. He also asked that future reports track multi-sport athletes.
Looking to the future, Mr. Livatino mentioned some additional initiatives. One is the new “Kits2College” initiative being developed that helps kids to “be on track” to play their chosen sports in college.
The department would also like to work on improving the overall aesthetics of the Athletic Wing in the near future to “highlight the strong history and tradition of ETHS sports.”