Student-athletes skipping practice prompts frustration in athletics department

Ben Katznelson

Throughout the course of the spring athletics season, student-athletes, coaches and administrators alike noticed a concerning trend in practice attendance. A significant number of student-athletes, across multiple sports, were skipping practices. Practices proceeded under-attended while the athletics department and coaches wondered what could be done. 

“It’s just rude. Once you make a commitment to something, my general rule is that you’re supposed to follow through on that commitment,” said Joe Skiffer, Urban’s director of athletics, about students skipping practices.

Kali Heys, associate director of athletics, agrees with Skiffer. “If you aren’t coming to practice, it’s telling your teammates that your time is more valuable than their time,” she said.

Indeed, significant administrative work goes into planning sports practices, especially at an urban institution with no outdoor sports facilities. “We have to get a permit, we have to get a bus, those things are pretty pricey,” Skiffer said. “The coach has to make a practice plan and they generally show up. So just out of common courtesy, it is appropriate to go to practice.”

“[Turnout has been] all over the place,” says Skiffer, especially with spring sports. Skiffer says baseball and boys and girls lacrosse have struggled the most with attendance.

Heys suggested a reason for this trend. “Seniors on the team this year are the only grade that has had a full season,” she said. “So [students] haven’t really experienced what it’s like to have an entire season and what the expectations are and what that looks like.”

“For me, it’s unacceptable,” said Skiffer regarding student-athletes skipping practices. “I’m disappointed, particularly when I think of juniors and seniors on teams that don’t come to practice who set an example for young 9th and 10th graders.” Though Skiffer acknowledges it is nearly impossible for Urban’s two-person athletics office to hold people accountable for showing up, he said individuals on his basketball team face consequences for failing to do so. “I won’t play you if you do not practice,” he said. “That’s super simple. I don’t care how good you are or [how good you] may think you are–I don’t think anyone’s too good to not come to practice.”

Heys agrees. “They’re letting their teammates down,” she said.

Skiffer also illustrated the coaches’ concerns about wavering player commitment. “[By playing an Urban sport] you’re not only making a commitment to yourself, [but] you’re making a commitment to others and a coach,” he said. “I’ve received emails from coaches, and they’re besides themselves at times. We’re at the end of the rope so to speak.”

Such lack of attendance is also likely to lead to a decrease in Urban sports performance. “If we want to be competitive in our league, we have to show up,” said Heys. “That’s the bare minimum. If we don’t do that, there will be natural repercussions of losing.”