Unlevel Playing Field

Fairness is an essential component of sports, but at NA some sports garner far more attention than others.


photo by Magdalena Laughrey

In a school that is recognized throughout the region as an athletic powerhouse, the hidden truth is that recognition and appreciation vary widely depending on the sport.

Magdalena Laughrey, Staff Writer

When I was in elementary school, I remember always dreaming of the day I would get to play a sport in high school. Back then, high school athletes seemed like mini-celebrities whom I could not wait to become. They had it all: cool black and gold uniforms proudly brandishing the NA logo, shiny new equipment, and, best of all, they played on the big field, Newman Stadium.

I joined the field hockey team in third grade and patiently waited six years until my freshman year rolled around to finally fulfill my childhood dream. Little did I know, the day I decided to join field hockey most of those dreams would soon be tarnished by the unfairness within high school sports.

From my own experiences playing field hockey for almost ten years, it’s hard to convince me that the more “popular” sports are not placed on a pedestal, while the “inferior” sports get brushed aside all too often. To someone who has put years of effort into their sport while seemingly getting very little out of it, it all seems a bit unfair. The sports that rake in the most money tend to be the ones that get the better end of the deal in terms of recognition and resources.

One of the fondest memories from my high school field hockey career happened in a practice during sophomore year. For a majority of that season, the team practiced at J.C. Stone Field in North Park directly after school to get a reasonable practice time. On October 21st, 2018, the high school field hockey team got kicked off our scheduled field for a peewee football team. Our frustrated coach was told by one of the child football player’s parents that they had priority over us on the field. We spent a majority of that practice, during a critical time of our season, sitting on the concrete and waiting for an answer as to what we were going to do. 

In a recent conversation with NA Athletic Director Bob Bozzuto, I learned that the incident resulted from an honest miscommunication.  But I couldn’t help but wonder if the same mistake would have happened had the sports been reversed.

For athletes stuck in the shadows, it can be difficult to find the courage to stay motivated because the angelic glow of the spotlight is far too dim.

A number of other inconveniences have occurred throughout the seasons: players developing stress fractures from practices on a poorly maintained grass field and having to deal with broken cages with soccer-ball sized holes in the netting. These grievances are not limited to field hockey; if the perspectives of many other athletes in the school can be trusted, it seems that many other sports do not get the treatment they deserve.

I understand that the Athletic Department must manage a multitude of teams in a district this large, and to their credit they pushed for the installation of additional turf practice fields across the district.

In fact, perhaps the root of the problem has more to do with the students than the administration.  At the core of the issue may be the lack of recognition and appreciation the less popular sports receive from the students of NA. If it’s not Friday night, the student bleachers are desert-like, filled only by the families of the athletes on the field.

Needless to say, sports such as football get the most recognition because the team makes the most money for the district due to high student attendance. The more money a sport makes, the more money the team has to spend on necessities such as equipment. However, the lack of recognition for other sports can make those players feel like they are doing something wrong, like they are lacking drive or choosing the wrong avenue for their athletic goals. For athletes stuck in the shadows, it can be difficult to find the courage to stay motivated because the angelic glow of the spotlight is far too dim.

Some of us may ask, “Why keep working to be the best if no one will ever take notice?”

It’s a shame. We fail as a student body in offering undivided support for every athlete and every sport. We all play for the same team, representing our school proudly each game.  So why do we let our “teammates” down every season? No matter the importance or significance of the game, attendance matters to the team and to North Allegheny, so it should matter to you too.