All About Athletics

The first thing you probably noticed as you made your way through the Student Center on the morning of August 6th was the huge red, white, and blue gym walls that tower over the snack bar. As you continued walking, I am sure the plants on the wall above the senior hallway caught your attention for a second before you realized that the senior lawn was missing entirely. Then, as you made your way down either Main Street or Eagle Way, you will likely have read the motivational signs that have been added throughout the halls.

The changes seen around the school will multiply in the second semester with the addition of the brand new gym, weight room, swimming pool, and tennis courts. Excitement and anticipation grow as that day approaches, but new facilities aren’t the only changes the athletics program will be seeing.

   In past years, first-semester basketball and soccer would culminate their seasons at Big 8, and second-semester volleyball, futsal, and softball would finish the year at Big 4. The Big tournaments bring together schools from around Brazil and are a long-loved Graded tradition. However, starting last year, both the swim team and track and field team traveled to a new tournament called SAAC. After much deliberation in the Activities Office and input from students, Graded decided to officially join the South American Activities Conference. There was, however, one major concern that followed this announcement: will go to SAAC mean Graded can’t go to Big anymore? Thankfully, no. Many teams, including swimming, futsal, softball, and track and field, will still compete in their respective semesters, and SAAC versus Big won’t have an impact on their seasons. For teams like basketball and volleyball, being a part of SAAC actually means they get to have year-long seasons! This means that basketball will go to Big 8 this semester and then compete at SAAC in May, while Volleyball will play at SAAC in November and go to Big 4 in the second semester.

   Assistant coach for Varsity girls basketball, Fiona Cope, is positive about the prospect: “By playing all year, we are gonna be way stronger teams.” Graded teams spur a deeper level of commitment to the sport, the expectation shown by coaches is that the teams are able to compete at much higher levels. The Varsity boys basketball assistant coach, Jim Heister comments that “we don’t have a massive time gap so we get a lot of cohesion between the players,” and that the connections within teams are just as beneficial to success as what teams can do skill-wise on the court or the field.

Another addition to the athletics program is the fact that basketball and volleyball

have joined the LBE (Liga de Basquete Escolares) and LVE (Liga de Vôlei Escolares) respectively. These leagues include other Brazilian high schools and give the Graded teams a chance to face new opponents. All teams will still be playing against other schools in the São Paulo High School League (SPHSL), but the LBE and LVE give more game opportunities for those year-long sports in order to prepare for the elevated competitions.

Girls and boys Varsity soccer will also be participating in the SAAC and Big tournaments. However this year, both of the tournaments take place in the same mid-November week. Soccer hasn’t become an all-year sport, but their skills and level of play will be elevated nonetheless. As the tournaments will happen at the same time, both the girls and boys can have two teams–one for Big and one for SAAC. This gives the coaches and teams a chance to develop and play a variety of athletes who might not have had the opportunity to in the past.

   There are many new things on Graded’s horizon this year, with strong additions to the Graded athletics program. Hopefully, with these changes, more students will get a chance to play on Graded teams and enjoy the pride that comes with being an Eagle. As sports take on year-long programs, we’ll also be seeing more double athletes within our student body. Finally, with the SAAC tournaments being added to the Graded calendar, stakes and student commitment will be higher, meaning that Graded will be able to bring that school pride home in the form of a trophy. This year presents itself with new challenges, but definitely, ones that our Graded Eagle athletes can overcome.

   Go Eagles!