Friday was the official last day of school for Venice High, and the Indians baseball team spent their morning practicing for the upcoming state tournament.
It’s not as if the Indians could be upset about getting ready for the most important tournament of the year, but the timing could be better.
For instance, the Venice seniors — Orion Kerkering, Danny Rodriguez, Kevin Dubrule, Clayton Callan, Bradley Miller, Connor Miller, Sam Ottman and Chason Rockymore — attended graduation on Friday, May 17 before gearing up to play in a regional semifinal game in Naples the very next day.
That group of seniors made the collective choice to skip all post-graduation parties and celebrations, as they’re focused on their ultimate goal of winning states.
But it shouldn’t be a choice they’re forced to make.
“I’m just trying to focus on the game,” Rodriguez said. “Graduation was fun and all, but I have to focus on the game.”
Graduation is supposed to be a time of celebration.
It’s a culmination of 13 years of hard work — studying, homework, six hours of classes a day, clubs, sports. The students put in the work, and they shouldn’t have to make a decision between chasing a state title or celebrating a milestone of life.
And it’s not as if the students are just missing out on having a good time.
There’s also the added pressure of finishing up classes and preparing for final exams.
Wednesday marked the regional championship game for the Indians. It was a game they won, 6-1, on their home field, but for some Indians, it also marked a day of final exams.
For others, there was another batch of exams the following day.
“Listen, it’s been a tough week. We just had graduation,” Venice coach Craig Faulkner said after winning the regional championship. “The last day of school is coming up. All of these kids are taking finals today and taking finals tomorrow. So they’re up late studying.
“Playing this time of the year is something I really hope the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) changes. I think we should play earlier in the year. This is tough on kids.”
I’m sure the FHSAA has its own reasons for scheduling the baseball playoffs when they do. I reached out for an explanation, but didn’t hear back as the FHSAA staff is out working at the state softball and baseball tournaments.
But regardless of their perspective, I can’t think of a good reason for forcing high school students — especially the seniors — to sacrifice an important time in their life.
Along with the end of school coming for the players, the same can be said about their classmates.
It’s difficult to drum up support for a state championship run among the students when their thoughts are on celebrating graduation and the beginning of summer.
If it ends in a state championship, the sacrifice will be more than worth it for these players. But, there’s no reason why they can’t enjoy the best of both worlds.