Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Extracurricular activity

Cutting the school budget by cutting bus rides to games

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The powers that be at Carrollton (Ill.) High School, sitting by themselves on the bus back from road games because the players are riding back with Mom and/or Dad, are wondering: why the hell are we paying to bus kids to their sporting events?

From the State Journal Register in Springfield (Ill.) :

“We’ll have a busload of kids going down to (Hardin) Calhoun for a basketball game on a snowy night,” said Phil Trapani, the principal at Carrollton High School. “Their parents get to the game later, and a lot of the kids go home with their parents.

“So when the bus gets back here, you might have the driver, the coach and a couple of players on it. That’s something you have to look at and say, ‘Are we wasting money here?’”

Carrollton is looking at alternatives that could reduce transportation costs for its athletic teams and other school activities. School Superintendent Beth Pressler said no final decisions have been made, but “people don’t realize the cost of transportation — fuel, maintenance and the driver’s salary.” …

Pressler said transportation costs for Carrollton’s extracurricular programs, of which athletics are a major part, could come to $28,000 by the end of the school year. It’s a figure, Pressler notes, that could cover the salary of one teacher.

Before I get into the subject at hand, $28,000 for a teacher? The median income for Carrollton is $30,000, for those of you who figured you could get rich teaching.

Anyway, with pretty much every school district in the nation cutting their budgets like crazy, $28,000 for not busing kids one-way to their sporting event sounds like easy money. Carollton hasn’t taken it yet, but nearby Carlinville is using the parentmobiles to get some athletes to and from their games, the State Journal Register reports. Anyway, kids on travel teams (most of them, anyway) have to hitch a ride with someone, so why should school athletes get a taxpayer-paid bus?

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Hitchhiking is so jaunty! Just watch out for escaped prisoners.

Well, there are a few problems. One is access. Just like with pay-to-play fees, making students responsible for their own transportation potentially creates a barrier to entry. Presumably coaches might step up to provide rides, if for no other reason than to overcome one other problem a bus solves: making sure everyone shows up together, on time.

The bigger issue, I would presume, is liability. One set of Carlinville parents told the State Journal Register that they bought extra liability insurance, at their own expense, for trucking other kids around. Schools would need all coaches and parents transporting kids to do the same if they’re counting on them as transportation. Even so, you know that if a parent’s car gets in a wreck, the school district is getting sued, too. With the time, hassle and money involved, the school might be just as well to keep the one-way bus, and instead try other create means pointed out in the Springfield article, such as limiting how far you’ll travel, or scheduling so boys’ and girls’ teams can double up.

Written by rkcookjr

March 23, 2010 at 2:25 am

High school sports for fun and academic credit

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In Cheatham County, Tenn., a little west of Nasvhille, there are some upset parents now that the school board, on March 1, voted to end the practice of allowing school sports teams to practice during the actual school day, rather than after school. Two of the district’s high schools had done this because of a lack of gym space. But the school board said it needed fourth period back because Tennessee has increased its academic requirements for graduation, and the personnel and students are needed to, you know, teach and study.

This did not go over well with everyone. From the Ashland City (Tenn.) Times:

During Saturday’s community meeting, parents said the athletic practice changes would penalize the basketball players, many of whom are already top academic achievers.

One parent said it appears that the school board is anti-sports and “it is coming through loud and clear.”

Parents believe basketball is being singled out because band can continue to practice during the school day and receive academic credit for the class.

As ridiculous as it might seem for a parent to call any school board “anti-sports” (I’ve never met a school board that fits that description), the sports parents do have a point: why do band kids, presumably in an extracurricular activity, get school credit, why the basketball kids don’t?

Well, sports parents, I’ve looked it up, and it’s because you live in the wrong state. Tennessee, despite bumping up its physical education/health requirements from one out of 20 high school credits to 1.5 out of 22, does not allow athletics or marching band or dance or any other physical activity to be used as a credit-earning substitute.

Your kids would get that exception if they lived in Michigan. Or Chicago. Or, most definitely, Texas, which for the class entering 2010-11 allowed athletics (and marching band) to substitute for four out of five elective credits, up from two.

In many cases, the students getting the credit for those activities might be able to hit the weight or practice room while the other PE class is happening. That’s not an all-bad thing. You wonder if there are kids who are getting more out of PE class because Moose isn’t in the way, hogging the ball and the glory and beating the snot out of nerds. In many cases, the kids out of PE for sports purposes may — gasp — get to take another, perhaps more valuable class.

Cheatham County parents, if you want you kids to get academic credit for their athletic activities, you state allows only one venue: Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. In my cursory view, it looks like there is a military substitute for PE pretty much everywhere.

If it’s any consolation, Cheatam County parents, the new academic requirements will include a half-credit for a personal finance class. So if they can get in a gym long enough for a burgeoning pro career, they won’t go the monetary way of Antoine Walker.

When youth sports die, they can take a school and city down with them

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I think we can all agree that organized youth sports are not 100 percent essential to the school or growing-up experience, in that plenty of people grew up to be productive, non-prison-occupying citizens without them. However, a major change in how a school or locality treats youth sports can be a symbol of that school or locality’s falling into the abyss.

Much has been written about the impact of the South-Western City School Board in Columbus, Ohio, dropping all extracurricular activities after voters failed to pass a tax levy, and how that has further drained the energy of the district. In May I went to Elkhart, Ind., to write about youth sports in America’s poster child for sudden employment, and I found the dividing line between whether someone thought themselves as out-of-work middle class or poor depended a lot on whether they could still scrape together a few nickels for youth sports. After all, if they didn’t have the money to spend anymore on something they believed benefited their children, they didn’t have money for the basics, either.

But today’s city and school on the edge of the economic abyss is Elk Grove, Calif., where the school system is looking at cutting out all freshman and junior varsity sports, and even some varsity programs, across nine high schools, thus filling about $1 million of a projected $42 million budget hole, and resulting in one-third of the athletic budget gone. The next meeting to discuss sports is scheduled for Oct. 19, with a decision expected in November. Unlike in some other districts that have cut sports but brought them back, Elk Grove doesn’t seem keen on having local boosters raise money to “buy back” teams on the chopping block.

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Elk Grove, a former dairy town, in 2006 was declared by the U.S. Census the fastest growing city in America, peaking at 136,000 residents. Average values that year were riding their highest, $458,000.

Now they’re at $227,000 — about a 50 percent drop in three years. Elk Grove was the first new megasuburb to realize its fast growth was a mirage, built on loans its residents couldn’t afford, particularly once they started losing their jobs. Instead of a suburban paradise, Elk Grove is watching presumed inner-city crime problems move in as squatters and renters take over what were once pristine McMansions.

While that is certainly more than enough to shake Elk Grove’s images among its own citizens, the final nail in their soon-to-be-repossessed coffin is the slicing of sports. Like in Elkhart, it’s the difference between down on your luck and down for the count. In Elk Grove, the varsity sports most likely to be cut are the likes of water polo, recently added sports that spoke to the town’s growth and affluence, and whose demise speaks to Elk Grove’s decline.

Not to say that the community is taking this change of status lightly. John Tuttle, the volunteer water polo coach at Elk Grove’s Franklin High, told the Elk Grove Citizen the only towel that should be thrown in is one that a player of his used.

“Putting sport aside, I find this unacceptable and disturbing,” he said. “Teaching our kids about responsibility, accountability, and the fact that you have to work for what you want should be a high priority – and we are staring right at a real life situation that could easily accomplish this. Tossing it aside as too difficult and potentially inequitable suits leaders we can’t afford to be in charge in these tough economic times. “

Unfortunately for Tuttle and others like him, tossing things aside is the rule when your city suddenly becomes a basket case. Maybe some of the citizens of Elk Grove will respond by starting private programs to make up for the athletic loss. But with no sign of an economic turnaround, Elk Grove is going to be hard-pressed to keep any symbol of its former glory — especially sports.