They deserve a level playing field

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To the Editor:

I graduated from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 2019, and was a captain of the indoor and outdoor track teams, and the field hockey team. I now run Division 1 track and field. 

With the school’s proposal for a new athletic facility, track, and a single turf field before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, I believe some people are losing sight of what’s really at stake. And, frankly, what I hear too often are remarks that suggest this proposal is out of touch with the Island community, or that we shouldn’t think of ourselves as a launching pad for professional athletes. In short, what I hear is that what we have is good enough for the Island.

But that does not square with what I saw over my four years:

The kid who watches their friends go off-Island every weekend to practice field hockey on turf, which is imperative for college recruitment, but can’t afford to do that. 

Those kids deserve a shot, too. 

Parents who can’t take time off work to go off-Island and see their son or daughter compete in the state championship track meet that they worked toward for months. With the components in the current athletic facility proposal, MVRHS could absolutely host a state championship. 

Those kids deserve to hear their parents cheering at the most momentous parts of their athletic career. 

The kid who hears her off-Island friends talk about their goal to compete in a state championship. These are not big-city kids, but from communities similar to the Vineyard. She listens, knowing that her team will never compete in a state championship because their school has turf, and hers doesn’t. Field hockey is no longer a grass-field sport at any level. That student wonders why their dreams are valued and resourced by other communities but hers are not. 

When I was on the field hockey team, I was that.

If you believe that athletic championship dreams are trivial in the overall high school experience, I urge you not to minimize the importance of goal setting. It is a way for students to learn how to work with others, a way to avoid the distractions and dangers of alcohol and drugs, and a lesson in how to see something through, no matter how tough or challenging.

I was the kid who was saved by goal setting. Many more would be, too, if the current state of our facilities didn’t make reasonable goals seem impossible. 

Now imagine you are the kid who struggles at home. Your parents have never cared about whether or not you do your homework. You don’t set the goal to master your chemistry class material, nor do you hold yourself accountable for reading your history assignments.Yet when you’re on the field playing a sport, you’re learning that sometimes you need to do things that don’t feel so easy, and maybe you start taking your schoolwork more seriously.

Goal setting and the reward of meeting or exceeding them don’t always come from home. And sometimes, when school is a struggle, it may not come in a classroom setting either. But athletics is the great equalizer that brings kids together from all levels, backgrounds, and socioeconomic statuses to pull together for a common goal. And yes, to achieve and to win.

Every year that goes by without a turf field and a respectable home track and facilities, students who need athletics to teach them critical life lessons will aim lower and lower. We need to support them by making their goals attainable, a skill set that will serve them off the field and throughout their lives. I’m afraid that many of those who continue to oppose this project have never seen the detrimental effects this lack of investment has on our Island’s youth.

But I have. 

I’ve watched their doubt set in. I’ve watched athletes disadvantaged and frustrated by our failing athletic facilities quit and turn to drugs and alcohol. I’ve watched their dreams shrink to a limited and defeatist view of the world. 

Those were my friends.

It’s past time to invest in our student athletes. All they want is literally a level playing field that supports their dreams and goals. As a community, we have not made that investment in them or their futures. Let’s build a safe athletic facility where they can thrive, learn the life lessons that come with competition, and we can cheer them on for years to come. 

Mackenzie Condon
Edgartown