Earn your letter: Athletics versus academics

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Lambert academic letter jackets look exactly like the athletic ones aside from the small lantern patch at the bottom of the "L."

The beloved Letterman jacket is a staple when it comes to being an athlete. In movies, books and television shows, the stereotypical jock typically has this article draped over his shoulders at all times while the geek has his shirt tucked in and his glasses taped at the nose. However, the social-norms have changed and many schools award letters to those who go above and beyond in a much different type of field: academics.

The Lambert standard for earning an academic letter is to “perform at the highest level of achievement” and earn a 4.0 GPA for two consecutive semesters. These requirements say nothing about a necessity for rigor, meaning that a student can take the easiest of classes, acquire all A’s, and receive the letter. On the other hand, athletes must train to excel in their sport. Once they have trained enough, the athletes must also go through a rigorous tryout process to obtain a spot on the team. Even then, the Letterman jackets are not simply handed to the jock for just being on the team; each sport has different requirements for lettering. Some of these requirements include a certain amount of playing time and participation. 

Many athletes see academically-given letters as an insult to the jacket itself. Eoin Griffiths, captain of the varsity soccer team, believes that “by giving out letters to anything and everything, the jacket loses value and wearing it is no longer as impressive as it once was. Academics should most definitely be rewarded, but not in the form of a Letterman, for those should be reserved for athletes.”

Despite these views, it should be noted that academic letters do have their merit. While colleges are not checking out everyone in their jackets, colleges do love seeing the 4.0 status that comes along with the letter. Even more so, colleges love seeing two consecutive years of a 4.0 grade point average, which earns students the coveted chevron for their jacket.

Another emblem that students strive to achieve is that of the Triple Crown. However, to obtain this Triple Crown award, one must earn a letter in at least three athletic teams, academics, and/or sponsored clubs. For athletes who are dedicated to their sport, it is difficult to obtain letters in more than their one sport. Athletes are then limited to their choices for their other two letters. Many find themselves grateful for the academic letter because it allows them to achieve their Triple Crown goal.