Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

The rain in Maine falls mainly on those who train

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In Maine, hard economic times might mean a wholesale budget cut in youth sports. From the Sun Journal in Lewiston:

… The controversial plan, which is expected to be voted on by the [Maine Principal Associaton’s] Interscholastic Management Committee on Jan. 26, would decrease the number of games in most sports and the length of seasons in others, and limit the number of exhibition games teams can play. It would also cut the number of teams that would qualify for postseason play, and bar Maine athletes from competing in New England competitions.

MPA officials say the changes are necessary to help most sports programs and teams survive during the current economic and budget crisis and keep all teams on a level playing field.

“I think a lot of people out there may not have recognized just how dire the situation is,” MPA executive director Dick Durost said. “This is the worst financial situation that we have seen in the 40 years that I’ve been around this, even worse than the early 1990s. We are seriously looking at some schools and some communities having to completely drop sports, or drop individual sports or drop subvarsity sports if they don’t get some relief.”

I remember in my elementary school years in Michigan that every time a millage rate increase or request was voted down, administrators would cut sports, knowing that the community would then knuckle under and pony up.

But it’s different this time. As I noted the other day, school districts across the country are having to make sudden and Draconian budget cuts as collapsing real estate values cause a major hit on property tax revenue. Then you can add state budget cuts for education on top of that. It’s not news that individual districts are putting sports on the chopping block. But it’s striking to see such action on an organized, statewide level.

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From Flickr, dated March 18, 2008: An apparent student/wrestler/swimmer protesting threatened budget cuts at the Alameda, Calif., schools. The protest worked, because the citizenry OK’d a tax increase in a November vote.

Plus, though I have no objective evidence, I don’t think most local communities are all that interest in the fate of the local high school teams. Maybe in some small towns where generation after generation has stayed, but how many of those are around anymore? And even in those towns, I don’t imagine in good conscience they will choose new football uniforms over books. Meanwhile, for those who are serious about a future in sports, football is the only sport where playing scholastically is a necessity. High-level club sports is where it’s at for those kids.

Maybe this isn’t a bad thing. With professionalism in sports seeping into the lowest levels, perhaps schools could take the opportunity to use some money saved on interscholastic sports by instituting and/or beefing up intramural programs, which would do a lot more for childrens’ health and athleticism than riding the pine for the basketball team. You don’t like that idea? Dan Hawkins does.

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