Non-Athletic Varsity Jackets: Stolen Valor? By: Stephen Sterlitz

The origin of the varsity jacket stems all the way back to 1865, when the Harvard Baseball team sewed a large "H" on the center of their team uniform. This generated a strong competition within the team to gain playing time because you only got the jacket if you played.

Later, the Harvard Football team adopted this idea with their first Varsity Sweater. The players earned these by contributing to the football program, but unlike the baseball team, they were able to keep them after their season was over.

Nowadays, the varsity jacket has now developed into a wool base with leather sleeves. The jacket can also feature the initials of the school where the letter was earned. The jacket can additionally have patches on the sleeves or pins on the letter to indicate achievement.

Nowadays, activities including drama, academics, clubs, band, and athletics can be seen on varsity jackets all over the United States. But the question remains, do they all deserve to be there?

All activities put on varsity jackets have different time commitments and requirements to earn their letter. Some more rigorous than others, but still a substantial time and effort commitment. Some requirements for Dexter athletics are as follows:

Women's Volleyball has a very vigorous start to their season with pre-season practices for two weeks at five hours a practice and then down to two hours for the rest of the season.

"If they put on a jersey, they earn the letter." Coach D'Ann Dunn said.

Men's Swimming and Diving has a rigorous schedule to earn their letter. Every school day, the team is logging four hours of practice with a two hour practice every Saturday.

An additional type of practice they have is "Deep Week" where the team logs over 150,000 yards over the duration of 23 practices at two and a half hours each during Winter Break.

On top of that, the swimmers on the team would have to score points in an SEC swim meet or swim faster than the team time requirements.

The earning of the Men's Water Polo Varsity Letter starts about a month before school starts with drop-in practices and captains practices to get the team in the mindset to work. Once school gets going, the Water Polo team jumps into two and a half hour practices five days a week.

Coach Brian Semple changes his varsity requirements from year to year, but it generally follows a contribution rule.

"If a player plays or contributes to a postseason game, they can earn their letter," Semple said.

Drama has a very extensive array of requirements and an insane amount of time commitment. Year round, thespians and techs alike work tirelessly to earn their keep on the Dexter Drama program.

"The actors practice for roughly three hours after school every day... For techs, the hours slowly get larger and larger up until 'Tech Week.'" said junior Bruna Meister, who works on the tech crew. "Techs could be at school until 9:30 or 10:00."

When asked about the letter requirement, Meister responded, "You need to be in four shows and you need to be in two or more areas of tech, like actors, hair people, lights, etc... You can also get your letter from classes like Improv, IB Film, and IB Theater if you don't meet the requirements."

Dexter Football's season never really stops, the team can be seen in the weight room almost year round if they aren't multi-sport athletes. Their preseason practices varied day to day due to the developing coaching staff of the 2017 season.

During season however, the Dreadnaughts practiced two hours a week for four days a week, then on Saturdays, the team watches film to prepare themselves for next game and reflect on their previous performance. The team is also dedicated, lifting in the morning three days a week, to get stronger throughout the season.

"We are a really hard working team, we put a lot of time and effort to make ourselves better." Junior Nathan Norris said.

The academic letter when stacked up against these well-established sports and activities seems rather underwhelming. The requirement according to Dexter administrators is a 3.75 cumulative GPA. The grade equivalent of this is five A's and one B.

Maintaining this grade point is a difficult task that requires a lot of effort and time at home and at school, but the task is not as rigorous as most sports out there.

Several students can be spotted around Dexter High School flaunting their varsity jackets, flashing their accomplishments on their letter and sleeves. Some students don't have traditional varsity jackets with the patches and large variety of pins, instead, the only thing on their jacket is the word "Academics".

With the immense requirements of Sports, and Drama, does an Academic letter deserve to be put on the same jacket as every hard working athlete or thespian? Students from DHS generally think that there should be a different kinds of jackets for athletes, thespians, instrumentalists, club members, and superb students.

The question of the matter is in regards to the military and stolen valor. Select people can be seen wearing military attire with awards and medals that they did not earn themselves. Academic varsity letters seem to be along the same line as this.

Should academics alone be reason enough to earn such a monumental achievement? A survey conducted at DHS found that academic achievements alone didn't deserve a varsity jacket.

The principle of the varsity jacket is a sense of school pride. A person can simply walk into a store, order a varsity jacket without any awards and wear it like your average competitive athlete to show their school support. Is this a fair treatment to Athletes, Band Members, and Drama Members that spend hours on end earning their letter? Students at DHS say that it isn't fair, the varsity jacket cannot simply be bought, it must be earned.

The statement "you only get out what you put in" is very applicable to this issue, if you put in the work, the reward should be reaped. Whether that be in the theater, the classroom, or the football field, different kinds of work need to be recognized.

The varsity jacket is a way to show school pride and to flaunt your status as an active member in your schools activities. Although it isn't entirely accepted yet, anyone who puts in the work to represent their school in a positive light should be able to show that off and wear it proud.

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