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Merrimack Valley

June 30, 2012

Andover delays ban on freshmen playing varsity sports

ANDOVER — Courtney Grygiel just completed her freshman year at Andover High School participating in three varsity sports and receiving high academic honors.

Along with many other students at the school, she doesn't understand why officials are considering changing the athletic policy to ban freshmen from playing a varsity sport, unless there is no junior varsity or freshman team.

"I think that freshmen every year have made a huge impact on various aspects on the varsity teams," Courtney said, "and to take them away would just be a huge blow to the teams."

The 15-year-old said she had a positive experience on the varsity soccer, track and lacrosse teams this past year.

"I wouldn't take anything back this year," she said. "It was smooth transition from eighth grade to the high school, especially with role models from the team."

The proposed ban has sparked much debate. Yesterday, the School Committee tabled the proposal in order to receive more input from students, parents and coaches — meaning freshmen will remain eligible to play varsity sports in the coming school year.

The proposal calls for freshmen to be banned from playing on a varsity team except in cases where a sport has only a varsity team. Sports at Andover High with only varsity teams include golf, skiing and gymnastics.

The freshman ban and other athletic policy changes are part of an effort to change the school's sports culture in the wake of last summer's hazing scandal, when two new members of the varsity basketball team were forced to play a humiliating sex game at a summer training camp at Stonehill College in Easton.

Courtney's father, Carl Grygiel, spoke out against the freshman ban at yesterday's meeting.

"Policy does not solve the problem," he said. "In fact, it will create more opportunity for exceptions and could eventually push students out of our academic communities to other schools because their opportunities are being unfairly limited."

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