By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Success in sports can be a relative thing.
A team’s performance can be considered a success in relation to past performance, which tempers many of the accolades and neuters some of the vitriol inspired by the best and worst seasons.
Put the same players on an even playing field, such as the classroom, and there’s really only one way to view the athletes of McNary High School: brainiacs.
Last week, the Oregon School Activities Association ranked high school varsity teams in the Beaver State according to their average grade point average and one Celtic team sat astride all others.
The Celtic boys varsity basketball team was head of the class and ranked first among OSAA 6A teams with an average 3.63 grade point average.
“We hit a lot of milestones this season and this is just one more reason for the team to be proud,” said Ryan Kirch, head coach of the boys basketball program.
The girls basketball team beat the boys in raw numbers scoring a 3.69 GPA, but ranked sixth among 6A peers. The boys swimming team averaged a 3.41 GPA and ranked 15th in the state. The girls swimming team earned an average 3.41 GPA and ranked 33rd. The Celtic wrestlers punched in right at a 3.0 GPA, good enough for a 19th ranking.
Overall, it was the first time every winter sport team averaged a 3.0 or better.
Grades and attendance are checked by the athletic department at the beginning of each season and at grading periods. Students who struggle are given a plan for the way forward, said Ron Richards, McNary athletic director.
“If the athlete makes satisfactory progress in all areas they are allowed to continue. If the athlete is not making progress, it may affect playing time. It is rare that we have to cut a student-athlete’s playing time as most use the help provided and progress at a satisfactory rate,” he said.
In the case of the boys basketball team, Kirch requires mandatory weekly progress reports. When he took the reigns of the program three years ago, he also instituted study tables with mandatory attendance for some players.
“For incoming freshmen, it’s mandatory Monday and Wednesday. We want to make sure they make the transition cleanly. Anyone else who has below a C is in study hall for the week,” Kirch said.
Coaches also have the option of connecting players with tutors to help target specific struggles. The athletics department has kept track of varsity grades for years, but Richards is implementing plans to track athlete grades in all sports, at all levels, this year.
It’s not uncommon for Kirch to field the question, “How is your team doing?” He can give the breakdowns of any game or season, but the true payoff is only seen over several years.
“I’d rather people ask that question in 10 years. Where are those athletes then, what are they doing, how are they succeeding? What I can tell you right now is that all six seniors who graduated since I took over are enrolled in college and that’s a big part of what athletics can prepare them for,” he said.