Last week I wrote about how the reorganization of the athletic director positions at both Amador Valley and Foothill were detrimental to the high schools' extracurricular programs. This week I would like to touch on both the importance of extracurricular programs as well as the funding.
According to some longtime coaches, around 2008 the Pleasanton Unified School District stopped helping fund each schools' athletic programs. That in turn prompted a new program that in theory perhaps makes sense, but not in reality.
The plan is that each sports program is designed to be self-funded, but the reality is this doesn't come close to happening. There is an estimated cost for a sport and that cost is divided by the number of athletes playing the sport.
For instance, football is around $500 per student for the season, with a sport like cross-country just a touch below $300. The rest of the sports usually fall somewhere in between.
The fees are considered a volunteer donation and a student cannot be denied playing the sport because their family can't afford the fee. In today's times, it's a great policy as families are fighting to stay afloat in a city like Pleasanton.
The problem is the plan makes sense in theory, but the reality is a lot of families have stopped or don't pay the fees because they know they don't have to pay.
Think about it -- if your child plays three sports, you are probably going to be north of $1,000 for their athletic life, and that's just for the ability to play. That doesn't factor the athletic gear your child needs.
To be honest, I get it. If your child is not going to play much, why would you want to write the check when others simply choose not to contribute? When each team falls massively short, then the current lifeblood of high school sports -- the booster clubs -- step in.
These booster clubs work their tails off to raise money for their programs and they do a wonderful job. Good people doing something for all the right reasons. But that gets old and tough as knocking on doors trying to round up donations is hard work.
Booster clubs should be there to supplement the athletic programs, not be the source of the funding.
New scoreboards, new uniforms -- those are things the boosters should be focused on, not having to make sure the programs exist.
It gets tougher and tougher to fund the sports, and along with numbers diminishing for a variety of reasons, it's another nail in the coffin of prep sports.
As a person who has always enjoyed watching and covering high school sports, that's just a shame. But it goes much deeper than just the joy of athletic competition. The lack of extracurricular activities directly affects the maturation of the students.
Something sorely missing in this generation is a lack of social skills. Blame it on technology if you choose, but it seems like kids today spend more of their waking time staring at their phones than they do interacting personally.
Let's be honest, the typical school day does nothing to enhance interpersonal communication skills. It's a simple day -- go to class, go home and study. This carries on through college.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
One day they are going to wake up in their mid-20s and have little to no interaction skills.
I believe that being involved with after-school activities -- be it athletics, band or other groups -- is every bit as important as anything in the classroom. Book-smarts need to be combined with social development to have the well-rounded young adult.
In sports, being on a team promotes teamwork toward accomplishing a common goal. It teaches dealing with adversity, as well as the benefits of hard work. Not everyone can win every time they play, but through athletics it is taught that you give your best effort and you can walk away with your head held high. Most importantly: It teaches discipline.
This must be the same for programs such as band, We the People or any other extracurricular activity.
Are those not lessons that should be carried over to everyday life?
Classes teach book-smarts while extracurricular activities teach life lessons. These are both part of the development of the teenager and should be viewed as equally important.
We need to get funding for all programs done, and it needs to come at the district level.
I venture to say if there was a legitimate oversight committee of the school district -- yes, I would be very happy to be a member, but I know I will get nowhere close to ever being on a committee like that -- the funding for athletics and other activities could be found.
We need people on the outside looking in at what has become our school district. I fully believe operational expenses could be streamlined into something that would benefit the students. And in the end, isn't that what the focal point should be?
Let's put the interests of the students out front.
We need to get a system in place that works, and we need to get it soon or high school athletics -- and perhaps all extracurricular activities -- will be gone. If that happens, we as a society will suffer.