Many high schools offer a variety of sports and activities such as football, soccer, basketball, and others, but few schools have the resources to support more uncommon sports such as rowing, hockey, and swimming. One high school in River Forest, Illinois, is taking measures to support their athletes who compete in non-school affiliated sports.
The Chicago Tribune recently featured a report on the Discovery of Independent Athletes initiative, a program which recognizes athletes who compete athletically outside of their high school’s athletic program. Truls Henricksen, whose daughter Sammie competes year-round with a private rowing club, saw this as a way for high schools to celebrate athletes competing in the community, no matter if they compete at the high school or elsewhere. While the Discovery initiative is still relatively new, Truls Henricksen and the River Forest athletic department have begun promoting the program by distributing a letter to incoming freshmen advocating athletes to come forward if they participate in a non-school affiliated sport.
For Sammie, it allows her to compete with the Chicago Rowing Foundation while also being recognized as one of her high school’s top athletes. The program will help benefit both the schools and athletes alike by giving them the exposure that they may not otherwise receive without the program.
“Even though they’re not playing one of our sports, they’re still our athletes,” said Rachel Meiner, Trinity’s athletic director. “And they represent Trinity, so why not celebrate them?”
While Trinity High School currently has only two athletes enrolled in the Discovery initiative, the program opens the door for athletes to compete in a wider range of sports. A recent study by the National Federation of State High School Associations found that sport participation among high school-aged students is at an all time high and the Discovery of Independent Athletes initiative will only help get more athletes active. Programs such as the Discover initiative can offer short- and long-term benefits which will give school’s athletes the recognition that they deserve.