The End-of-Year Athletics Report for 2015-16 school year revealed numerous successes, among which are the high grades received by student athletes. Individuals participating in at least one sport earned an average GPA of 3.5 which is 0.54 higher than students not involved in athletics. Thirty-three of 35 varsity teams had a team GPA above 3.0. Twenty-one varsity teams earned a team GPA over 3.5.
“Across every racial sub-group, students who participated in athletics earned significantly higher semester and cumulative GPAs than those students not involved in athletics,” said Chris Livatino, ETHS Athletic Director in his report to the District 202 School Board on Sept. 6. This is especially true for students of color, said Mr. Livatino. The average second-semester GPA for Latino student-athletes was 0.66 higher than Latino students not involved in athletics. That differential was 0.56 higher for black student-athletes versus black students not involved in athletics.
“We know kids involved in sports do better, yet eligibility prohibits some from participating,” said Mr. Livatino. “Is athletic participation to be used as a carrot or academic support?” he asked, suggesting the District look deeper into this question in the coming year.
Currently, student-athletes must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA to participate. Grades are checked weekly in the season to determine eligibility. Student-athletes who have at least two classes with a grade of C- or worse are placed on Study Table and must attend three academic tutorials the next week in order to maintain their eligibility to play. A program called Extra-Curricular Academic Plan (EAP) provides ineligible student-athletes a one-time opportunity to participate in a full semester of tutoring. Sixty-eight percent of student-athletes enrolled in EAP improved their semester GPA to above a 2.0.
Participation in athletics decreased slightly last year from 1,254 participants to 1,235. This is still the third highest participation level, reported Mr. Livatino. Seasonal participation decreased slightly from 1,816 to 1,792 students, but seasonal athlete participation has still risen by more than 14.5% in the past five years.
Female participation dropped slightly from the previous year from 918 to 880, yet female participation has increased 14.9% over the past four years. The seasonal participation rate of Latino males grew significantly this past year with a 43.2% increase from 88 to 126. At the same time, the Latino female seasonal participation rate dropped 12.0% from 108 to 95, reported Mr. Livatino. Seasonal participation rates for both black males (11.5%) and females (4.9%) dropped for the second straight year.
“I am always impressed with how engaged we get our kids,” said Board member Monique Parsons. She then asked about the drop in participation, particularly amongst black males.
Participation in high school sports correlates to participation in sports before high school, said Mr. Livatino. Sometimes, he said, there are “barriers like transportation, finances. There are so many sports here if you haven’t played before it’s sometimes hard to feel you can jump in.” Mr. Livatino pointed to Girls Play Sports, saying that one goal of the program is to encourage participation in new and different sports at earlier ages. ETHS athletics is also working to “build better bridges with youth sports,” he said, and continue to provide scholarships for athletic summer camps.
The numbers of college-bound student athletes increased, with 49 senior student-athletes saying they plan to continue playing their sport in college, an 81% increase from last year. The KITS2COLLEGE program continues to help student-athletes navigate the college recruiting process, providing 125 one-on-one meetings last year with students and parents to help explain the process and assist them with understanding the new NCAA eligibility requirements.
“We made a lot of history this past year,” said Mr. Livatino to the Board. “Softball was the feel-good story of the year,” he said, with the team winning its first ever CSL South Championship and setting the record for most wins in a season (18), which included a victory over New Trier.
The boys soccer team won the IHSA Regional & Sectional Championships, recording 21 shutouts, two short of an IHSA record. The girls swimming and diving team earned 9th place at the IHSA State Finals including 2nd place in diving by freshman Lucy Hogan and 4th place in the 200 Medley Relay. Boys track & field earned 12th place at the IHSA State Finals including a 2nd and 3rd place finish in both hurdle events by Roland Amarteifio. Girls water polo set an ETHS record for most wins in a season (25) and smashed the IHSA record for most shutouts in a season (6). Wrestling tied the ETHS record for most wins in a season (32) that it set the year before and advanced three wrestlers to the IHSA State Finals for the second year in a row.
Four ETHS coaches were also honored as Coach of the Year: Don Michelin, Mike Ellis, Elliot Whitefield, and Andy Miner.
At the end of his presentation, Mr. Livatino told the Board of other plans he has for the future. He would like the department to provide more leadership training for athletes, increase the number of coaches, beautify the athletic wing to highlight history and tradition, and increase off-season conditioning.