Save the letterman jacket tradition before it’s too late

History, legacy, and tradition – all three key components of high school athletics.

For decades, student athletes have displayed their high school achievements and honors through patches on an all-so-traditioned letterman’s jacket. But that bold symbol of high school athletics is fading.

The tradition is fading for a number of reasons, but they all route back to the same source. The involvement of schools is absent.

For many years it’s been a custom that a school’s athletic department provides and distributes earned letters, bars, and patches at each teams banquet or at some point after the season ends.

Instead, if our student  athletes want a letterman jacket they are required to go to a store out of town, pick out what jacket they want, pick out what patches they need, and buy it themselves.

Illustration by Ruthie Houston

This defeats the whole purpose of the jacket. If you go buy all your stuff, it doesn’t give you a sense of accomplishment like you would have if you were being honored by the school. It defeats the whole purpose of earning the sacred letter, bar, or patch if you have to go get it yourself.

Not only is it an inconvenience to drive so far to get all your patches, but it also is a severe cost deficiency.

The jacket alone is quite pricey, usually costing around $150-$300, but it’s doable if it’s the only thing needed to be purchased by the student athlete. Add all the expensive patches, letters, and bars into the total and that pricey jacket turns outrageously expensive.

The timely jacket is a symbol of high school academic and athletic achievement.

Kids shouldn’t have to worry about their letters, bars, and patches all on their own. The school’s involvement is needed to maintain this tradition. Our youth deserve to grow up with the same high school traditions their parents grew up with.

As you get deeper and deeper into your high school career the jackets are supposed to fill up with patches as you participate in more sports, activities, and clubs and achieve more accomplishments.

The jacket is usually earned at the beginning of your junior year, so you have time to put some achievements on it and still earn more as you go along the rest of your high school career.

You earn your letter by playing in a varsity game or activity and you earn a bar each year you participate in a varsity sport.

While on said varsity sport/team you can earn various patches from district level achievements such as a district championship or an All-District selection, to regional level achievements like a region championship or an All-Region selection.

You can also earn patches for various clubs you are in such as Beta Club, National Honor Society, 4-H, Spanish National Honor Society, French Honor Society, and many more.

Patches are also awarded if you are a part of winning a state championship, winning a state band competition, earning academic All-State for your respective sport, and earning a distinguished score in band/orchestra. The possibilities of the amount of patches is endless.

Having a full letterman jacket gives student-athletes a tangible piece of their high school career that they can keep to show their children and grandchildren.

But looking down the halls of our school the jacket is slowly becoming more and more rare to see.

The reason this traditional jacket is slowly fading is due to the lack of structure on the school’s end to maintain the requirements and facilitate the distribution of said achievements.

This structure has completely gone away at GRC. Kids don’t know how the jackets are supposed to work or what to even buy on their own.

To the self motivated students who want to get a jacket, it’s like a shot in the dark as to what they should put on their jacket.

To motivate anyone and everyone, a rule book or a pamphlet to show what kids earn and what they don’t would suffice as a great tool to guide our students. This is a necessity moving forward from now, as without something like this our students will be lost and the tradition will surely fade for good.

As the jacket slowly blurs into the past, GRC needs to take actions to lay the foundations of a letterman jacket structure, so that this tradition stays alive for future generations of student athletes.

Our school needs a solution now, before it’s too late.