Ava Seccuro co-editor-in-chief
The Academic Decathlon team, although continuing preparations for their competition in November, is having trouble recruiting “varsity” competitors in time for the upcoming competition season.
In order to for Academic Decathlon (Acadeca) to compete, the team needs to have three members of each level based on unweighted GPA: honor, students with a GPA of 3.75 or higher; scholastic, students with a GPA of 3.0 to 3.74; and varsity, students with a GPA under 3.0.
Despite adjusting to the new advisor social studies teacher Ann-Marie Fine, varsity level recruitment has posed the largest problem for the team this year, senior and fourth-year competitor Matthew Park said. If the team doesn’t have at least three varsities, they cannot compete in legitimate competitions, he added.
Acadeca used to promote themselves as a club on club day, but it now wishes to distinguish themselves as a class. This new lack of presence on campus resulted in a change to the recruiting process, Park said, which, starting last year, prompted the team to visit each class individually to advertise.
This method is how senior Timothy Villaflor became convinced to embark on his, although shortlived, journey.
As a first year member and the only varsity in the class, Villaflor admitted that prior to Acadeca’s class visit, he had “never heard of them before” but decided to join because of how adamantly the team emphasized its benefits on public speaking skills.
The team wants to continue to highlight this point as an advertising strategy, but Park said he hopes to create a social media presence to promote themselves better and reach to a wider audience, such as varsities.
He said the reason that most varsity eligible students don’t join is because they are “intimidated” by the class and view it as an activity for only the most studious members of the student body. However, Park, on behalf of the rest of the team, wants to have a more balanced team and debunk this reputation.
“We don’t discriminate. If you’re willing to put in the work and effort, then we will let you be in Acadeca if you stay committed,” Park said.
Through firsthand experience, Villaflor attests to the fact that Acadeca is for everybody.
“When I was actually in the class, my mindset changed. Everyone was so helpful, they helped me succeed in the class, and they’re great people,” Villaflor said. “They said, ‘It’s okay if you don’t get this, we’ll go over it,’ and it really meant something to me.”
With that said, Villaflor is actively trying to recruit some of his friends to be varsities, but they have the same mindset he once did. He said that as a varsity, students who would be eligible for that level of competition are intimidated because “Acadeca doesn’t reach out as much.”
The key to changing Acadeca’s reputation is to connect to recruits personally and “make them feel welcome,” he said.
The team has many goals for the season, including advertising themselves better and qualifying for nationals. Despite the challenges the team has faced recruiting, Park remains hopeful.
“It’s a game of numbers. If people eligible for varsities see promotions for Acadeca and you show it to enough of them, there are bound to be three people to join,” Park said.