Shaving grace: No day off kills swim team's hair-razing rite
Parents of high-schoolers say students should get free day to prepare before major events
Grandview Heights High School swim-team parents have expressed concern about an unexpected decision they fear may have kept their boys from shaving seconds off the times they achieved at the district meet in February.
Three days before the event, Athletic Director Jim Hall notified parents and students the athletes would not be excused from attending school on the day of the meet, parent Markus Bonn said.
In the past, the students have used the day off in part to shave their body hair, Bonn said.
Shaving body hair is a common practice among swimmers, many of whom believe it improves their times by increasing aerodynamics and removing dead skin cells from the body.
It also provides a psychological boost to swimmers, Bonn said.
"It takes three hours for kids to get all the hair off and it has to be done as close as possible to the meet," he said.
"In order to do this, eat properly and mentally prepare (for the meet)," Grandview students have in previous years been given an excused absence from school on the day of the competition, Bonn said.
This year, Hall decided not to give the students an off-day and did not give a clear reason why, Bonn said.
He said Hall did indicate his belief that the swimmers are students first and athletes second.
Many other schools give swim-team members the day off, Bonn said, and Columbus schools had a professional day this year, so no Columbus students attended class that day.
Swim-team parent Becky Warnement noted that at this year's district meet, Grandview had two relay squads just miss achieving a race time that would have qualified them for the state competition.
While Bonn said he generally agrees that student-athletes should focus mostly on their studies, given all the months of practice and hard work the swim team puts in preparing for the district meet, "not getting respect for that time they put in is not the right message, I think," he said.
The parents ideally would like the school board to adopt a policy that allows students to take a day off to prepare for a district event, whether it be a swim meet or a robotics competition, he said.
The district's current practice is to have the building principal, athletics director and coach meet and discuss whether students should be excused from school to prepare for an athletic event, Superintendent Ed O'Reilly said.
"They come up with a joint decision," he said.
O'Reilly said it is his preference to continue to have the flexibility that format provides rather than adopt a new, fixed policy.
If that process continues, it would be helpful to have the decision announced earlier so parents and students can know what to expect as the district meet approaches, Bonn said.