Academic goals, not just field goals

Gabrielle Parrish, Sports Editor

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It’s late Monday night, you’ve just returned home after a grueling practice, and you have a chemistry worksheet due the next day. But you would much rather spend your precious free time playing Madden 20.
Sometimes, it’s difficult for athletes to juggle so many activities and stay on top of their school work during the sports season. Liberty’s football coaches understand this, which is why the grade-check system is designed to encourage players to stay proactive when it comes to their grades.
In addition to the standard quarterly grade checks done online by athletic director Danielle Zelinski, football players are required to get their teachers to sign a paper every two weeks verifying that they have no late assignments, tardies, or GPAs below 2.0.
“As long as you have no missing assignments or tardies, you are good to go. But if you have tardies or missing assignments, you will owe some physical conditioning,” junior captain Scott Heimbigner said.
The coaches realize that their ability to assign conditioning puts them in a position of power which they use to effectively motivate players to be in class and get their work in as soon as possible.
“Once you receive the punishment, you realize that you don’t want to end up having to do conditioning, so it helps the team stay accountable,” Heimbigner said.
According to head coach Steve Valach, the reasoning behind this system is simple: a better team GPA equates to a better team overall.
“Our best football teams always have the best team GPAs. It’s a total correlation,” Valach said. “Having a constant message that excellence is a lifestyle—not just a football thing, a life thing—raises their game. It makes them more aware. That kind of culture can raise everybody’s expectations of themselves, and, ideally, that’s what the value of sports in school is.”
Whether it’s these high expectations held by the coaches or something else, Liberty’s football program has been widely successful and the team is happy with their performance during their season so far.
“We’ve been doing really well,” junior slotback and cornerback Marquel Aguila said.
The team is currently headed for their second game in the districts playoffs after winning 57-6 against Blaine High School on Friday, November 1 and holds a season record of 7 wins and 2 losses.