For many American students, varsity letters are a badge of honor worn with pride. Many individuals work hard for these tokens, even dedicating years of their school life to achieving them.
There is no established limit to the number of varsity letters a student can earn. In general, though, students receive the varsity letter patch once, and subsequent letters are awarded as sports pins, bars, or stripes. However, individuals have been known to earn as many as 18 varsity letters.
This article will discuss further how students can earn many letters, how these are reflected in their varsity jackets, and what you can do to achieve the same.
What Are Varsity Letters?
First off, we need to establish what we are talking about – the award or the patch.
Traditionally, varsity letters are awards in sports intended for the best among varsity members. This is often awarded as a felt and chenille letter patch one can sew onto their varsity jackets. Students need to meet the criteria to earn the letter.
These letter patches are often made with the school’s letter (or letters) and colors. Some institutions also have different size letter patches for junior and senior varsity members.
How Many Varsity Letters Can You Earn?
Now that we have clarified what a letter is, just how many can you actually earn?
Most schools do not limit the number of times you can earn the letter. Instead, the limit is on how many letter patches you can get. Thus, if you meet the standards set every year, it is possible to get the award multiple times. You can also earn letters for numerous sports.
The awarding of varsity letters is governed by the policies and rubrics set by the school. As such, if your institution’s policy states that the letter can only be won once or twice, then that would be the limit. However, most school policies do not specify that previous awardees are barred from getting the letter.
How Can You Earn Varsity Letters?
Usually, varsity letters were reserved for athletes. However, even non-members of the varsity team can earn a letter through other fields like community service or academics. The requirements for earning varsity letters vary per institution, sport, or event.
Varsity letters are earned by meeting the requirements set by the institution. The intensity of conditions varies. Some schools only need participation to earn the award; hence, all members may get the letter. However, most have rigorous standards that require effort to be achieved.
To better understand how stringent the guidelines are, keep reading the following sections to read discussions of actual school or team policies.
How Many Varsity Letters Can You Put On a Jacket?
While you might not be barred from earning the letter multiple times, most schools limit how many times you could get the actual letter patch.
In general, students only get the patch once or twice. After getting their second letter patch, most schools have it that students may also get the varsity or letterman jacket. However, if you earn the letter multiple times, these may be reflected as bars or sports pins.
How Easy Is It To Earn Varsity Letters?
There might be no limit on how many times you can earn the letter, but that does not mean you just get dozens of it quite simply. Often, these awards are met only after being committed for an entire season or year. Some even require awardees to have been varsity members for two to three years.
Some schools have set that athletes who have been on the team for a few years may automatically get the letter during their senior year. For instance, the Sanderson High School Athletic Department has established that seniors who have participated in their field for three or more years may earn the letter.
Institutions may also bar freshmen and even sophomores from earning a letter so they could focus on academics during their first years.
Some schools, like Jersey Shore, also allow coaches to letter players even when they do not meet general or sports-specific requirements, so long as these students are deemed deserving.
It is also important to maintain academic standing to earn a letter. Students who do not meet a minimum GPA may be kept from getting the award, which is the case for Jersey Shore.
For this section, we will give a few actual policies for two popular sports for you to get an idea of how hard (or easy) it is to get a letter.
A common basis for awarding letters in basketball is the number of quarters played and participation. Sanderson High School requires participating in 50% of the quarters played to earn a letter. For Jersey Shore, you must have played in at least 24 quarters to reach the 24 points, which is the varsity letter prerequisite. The coach may also grant points at their discretion.
Some institutions also have separate policies for male and female basketball.
Like basketball, a student needs to participate in 50% of halves played to earn a letter from Sanderson High School. Meanwhile, for PAC Panthers, an individual needs to play for 45 minutes in five varsity games to earn the award.
Multiple Letter Awardees
Many policies about varsity letters may appear stringent, with some departments granting letters only after years of participation. However, getting multiple letters is possible, with a student even getting a record of 18 letters during high school.
Kelsey Dropsey from Hillsdale participated and excelled in many sports activities. She earned a total of 18 letters in soccer, basketball, football, and cheerleading. She also earned player and athlete of the year awards.
Meanwhile, Jessica Todd from Dimond High School is a record-holder for her district after graduating with 17 varsity letters. These were from soccer, track, flag football, basketball cheer, and cross country.
Amber McDermott from Norwayne was also reported to earn five varsity letters from basketball and softball. Her stellar performance allowed her to earn a scholarship, along with Kelsey Dropsey.
With the examples these students show, we can see that earning many letters is a possibility. But it does require dedication and time management to deserve the honor.
Varsity letters can be awarded based on merit and participation, with the former demanding talent while the other requires commitment. Thus, while there is no limit to the number of letters you can get, earning many is a real challenge. But with grit and determination, you can also get that jacket-clad with letters, stripes, or pins.