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High school students may face difficulties joining some clubs without prior experience.

B&G: Should clubs be allowed to be exclusive

March 2, 2020

Though most high school clubs are open to all, some high school clubs require tryouts or an application for consideration to join. Is the this process discriminatory or necessary for clubs to flourish? Read both sides to learn more:

Yes, club exclusivity ensures commitment

RM has some of the best clubs and teams in the county. But many of these clubs have tryouts and only accept a few new students every year. This includes but is not limited to the Debate Team, Mock Trial team and Science Bowl team. Club exclusivity can seem very discouraging. However, it benefits both the school and students because it helps focus the club on committed members, allows students to find their perfect club, and strengthens the school’s and club’s reputation.

These clubs are all exclusive, but they also have incredible winning records. RM’s debate team won their county championship four years in a row, the Mock Trial team was the 2019 state champion and RM reached semi-finals in Science Bowl last year. There may be some sort of positive correlation between club success and exclusivity, which builds a strong reputation for both school and the club.

However, for a team to be able to build this reputation, it needs members who are truly devoted to the club. Tryouts are infamous for supposedly “weeding out the weak,” but here, their main purpose is instead to find dedicated and passionate students that add something new to their community. This is especially true for freshmen and sophomores who are still trying to figure out who they want to be in high school.

By having rigorous tryouts, students will know if a club is really right for them or if their interest actually lies elsewhere. Sometimes a student may join a club due to peer pressure, hype or a winning record without taking into consideration what they really enjoy doing. An article from the Columbia Spectator put this into words well and said, “Students should consider a new club with the same attitude that a club considers them.”

Tryouts also let the student know whether the club is right for them because it can give an idea of what the club is like and the requirements to succeed. For example, Mock Trial requires students to argue qualities and traits about themselves that contributes to the team. Likewise, debate tryouts include writing about both the pro and con side of a topic and then randomly presenting one side. Both of these tryouts simulate a real competition and allow the student to experience whether they actually enjoy the activity or not.

There is also the argument that just because clubs may have a restriction on the number of members it can take to a competition, that doesn’t mean they can’t take in students who want to just have the experience. Debate team coach and social studies teacher Mr. Stillman said, “We would love to take everyone, but it’s not realistic. The tryouts are necessary, since we don’t have the manpower to handle more students.” It is just not ideal to try and take everyone since resources would be spread too thin and not every student would be given the attention they need.

Model UN changed its policy from last year to accept all students. Model UN and debate member sophomore Courtney Kim said, “Although allowing everyone a chance to participate in an activity can have positive results, I believe accepting everyone onto the team makes teams bonding very difficult. A smaller team is generally more productive and close-knit.” Therefore, it is inefficient to accept everyone into the club since it would degrade the community and quality of the club. Close- knit teams usually generate strong bonds; as a result, they are stronger on the field. The same philosophy applies to clubs. If everyone is comfortable with each other, it makes the club much stronger as a whole.

Having students in the club just to gain experience would not be worthwhile for either the club nor the student. Kim also said, “So how does the open acceptance policy truly benefit inexperienced students? That would depend on how the team trains those individuals. Everyone has the potential to succeed, but they need proper training and personal attention.” Kim’s point emphasizes how new, inexperienced club members would need one-on-one support to truly have gained more experience and skills in a particular field. Continuing Mr. Stillman’s point, if the debate team were to have everyone join, no one would really benefit because there are not enough resources for each individual student.

Also, just because a student isn’t accepted into one club doesn’t mean there are not other opportunities. Other competitive clubs like DECA, HOSA, and Forensics club allow everyone to join, and there are always other clubs to try out for. These are clubs are open to everyone because they have the resources and time to give new members the attention that they need.

Being part of a club is essential to the high school experience. It allows you to make new friends, learn new things, and gain new connections. But clubs only provide the best experience for everyone when they choose the people best suited for them, and the people are truly devoted to the club. so tryouts are necessary. Club exclusivity simulates real-life situations like jobs and colleges and is integral to a student’s learning and growth.

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No, club exclusivity favors the experienced

At the beginning of every year, RM’s Main Street bustles with decorated poster boards and curious students scribbling their email down at table after table. This event, known as the Club Fair, brings countless opportunities for students looking to continue a familiar passion and discover new interests. As one of the most close-knit, stimulating and rewarding experiences a school can offer, clubs prosper by means of welcoming all students, regardless of grade or skill.

From science and math to art and juggling, RM’s clubs encompass a wide range of interests and activities for students to participate in. “The main objective of high [school] clubs is to give everyone, especially freshmen, an opportunity to explore and develop what they are interested in and help tailor their future career pathways,” sophomore Myka Fromm said. With so many students unsure of their future and passions, clubs provide a great way for them to try out a variety of activities that transform into specific interests through the four years of high school.

However, many clubs, such as the debate team and science bowl, hold rigorous try outs that exclude all who do not make it in. Before a student can see for themselves whether they enjoy the club’s activities, they are rejected—punished simply for having not enough experience and ability.

Many students feel that they have the right as active learners and opportunity pursuers to try out clubs freely. “Especially for freshmen, who are trying to try new opportunities, it is important for clubs to allow us to join and broaden our activities,” freshman Phoebe Freeman said. Clubs must understand that a student’s skill level at the very beginning of the year does not indicate their future potential.

A student might not be experienced in an area at first, but can end up being a valuable member of the team in the future. “You shouldn’t exclude people because of their current skill set and knowledge because they have the opportunity to improve later as they participate in club activities,” Fromm said. Ultimately, inclusivity allows clubs to tap into a larger base of talent, as not every talented person is born talented.

Thousands of students roam the halls of RM. Club inclusivity allows students to adjust to the environment and make friends that they would otherwise not know. “Clubs shouldn’t be exclusive because clubs allow students to communicate with each other and socialize. Limiting the students from joining a club will limit their opportunities to do so,” sophomore Monica Escalante said.

Many exclusive team clubs also often demand extensive and rigorous application processes that may unintentionally cause students to misconstrue the level of competition. A student who is interested in the club might have a difficult time finding out if it is a right fit because of the large commitment associated with applying and joining. This discouraging process can turn many potential members away at the door and remove students of many great opportunities.

Most clubs, such as RM’s history club, DECA, and Fine Lines, accept everyone who are interested in participating, but include special positions for those who are particularly skilled and active. “If you accept everyone, you can still limit who is going to have the executive positions if they are not as talented or good at the club activity,” sophomore Riki Doumbia said. Leadership positions allow all students to be included according to skill level, while still promoting the progress of the club itself.

The inclusivity of many RM clubs have proved to be successful among the students. “When I first came to RM, I wasn’t really brilliant at one specific thing because I was keeping my options open. I am so thankful that many of our clubs here are inclusive to everyone because
it has allowed me to see what I like and don’t like and simultaneously improve in many subjects,” sophomore Angelina Guhl said. Inclusivity is a driving force for many students in prospering through their high school careers and future lives, and it can also introduce students to new interests.

For many club rejects, being dismissed from a team is upsetting and comes across as unfair. “It really shouldn’t be their decision. I mean, shouldn’t everybody be able to join every club?” freshman Carson Smith said. To the majority of students who do not make it to a team, exclusivity takes away not only opportunities, but self-confidence, leaving blame upon themselves for falling short and discouraging them from pursuing future endeavors in that area.

Fundamentally, clubs are made for all students. With the wide recognition RM obtains from its diverse clubs, exclusivity is not a virtuous look. As Riki Doumbia said, “Cutting people at the door is simply just not very welcoming and nice of a club to do.”

In a time of growing up, finding friendship, and discovering oneself, high school needs its clubs to open their doors to everyone. Through these inclusive acts, students with no prior talent and experience are able to break out of their shell and flourish with skill. After all, clubs have no way to determine who will become the next Albert Einstein or Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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