Students traveled with Ms. Smith and Mr. Sargent on the 2015 IGCL trip to China. Photo: Helen Smith

Over the past several years, the Isdell Center for Global Leadership has offered Pace students dozens of opportunities to broaden their horizons through trips to foreign countries. These trips reach all over the globe, during various times of the year.

One study tour that has attracted a lot of interest this fall is to China during Spring Break 2018. The trip includes visits to the cities of Beijing and Shanghai, with a focus on the “old” China compared to the “new” China. Several students have already signed up for the trip, to be led by history teacher Helen Smith and Fine Arts Center Technical Director Scott Sargent.

However, some students ran into a conflict with their spring sport, specifically boys lacrosse. Seven juniors on the lacrosse team were confronted with a conflict between a new lacrosse team policy and what they perceived as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Over the years, the Pace lacrosse team has had to deal with travel conflicts during Spring Break. This year, Head Coach Grady Stevens instituted a new policy concerning travel for varsity players during the break. The dates for Spring Break are set and students are not expected to travel prior to or after the designated days for Spring Break. “The policy is that we want all the varsity lacrosse players to be at all of the varsity games,” said Mr. Stevens.

This means that if an ICGL trip is scheduled to leave a day early, the students on the lacrosse team would have to join the trip a day late if they had a game that conflicted. Therefore, the dilemma for these lacrosse student-athletes was choosing between playing in the Fellowship Christian game on March 8, or leaving for China that same day.

One junior boy on the team who wishes to remain nameless commented on this new policy: “It’s not fair to make us stay home instead of go on a Global Ed trip. We’re not that kind of school.” On the other hand, some players find the new policy to be sensible. “I think the new policy is reasonable, especially if we want to be a competitive team this year,” said senior Joseph Mathias. Others are on the fence about the policy. “I think kids should go on ICGL trips but also honor their team,” said senior captain Joseph Adams.

Originally, the plan was for the students to go on the trip a day late, accompanied by Ms. Smith. “I understand that other trips have done that,” said Ms. Smith. However, Ms. Smith was skeptical about this proposal. “I think that it’s different when going on a trip that is halfway around the world,” she said. “Missing a whole day of the trip, especially given how short the trip is, doesn’t work well for the students going.”

On the other hand, Coach Stevens had reasons for wanting his players in town for the previously scheduled game. “When it comes to Spring Break, there is a lot that can be lost by giving up that much time,” he said. “Spring Break is no different than any of the breaks in the other sports seasons.” After productive discussions between the Pace athletics department, Coach Stevens, ICGL Director Trish Anderson, concerned parents and student-athletes, the decision was reached to allow the students to go on the trip with the rest of the students on the scheduled departure date.

But this predicament brings to light the larger issue of ICGL trips and athletic conflicts. “Pace is a school that uses the word ‘and’ instead of ‘or,’” said Coach Stevens. What he means by this is that students should not have to choose between going on an ICGL trip or playing on a sports team; students should be able to both go on a trip and play on a team. “I think what we have here is not a question of right and wrong,” said Ms. Smith. “It’s a question of two different values that Pace holds very highly. One is our team spirit and being committed to the team. The other value is making a global citizen.”

This challenge is by no means exclusive to the lacrosse program. “For fall athletes, their summer gets cut short a bit,” said Athletic Director Troy Baker. “For winter athletes, teams are playing in holiday tournaments. And for teams in the spring, the obvious challenge is spring break. In general, it is definitely fair to have some level of commitment to the sport.”

He stressed that with every season there are some “unique challenges built in.” While the specific matter of the trip to China and the lacrosse game has been resolved, this issue could very well remain a topic of discussion for seasons to come.