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Pleasanton Preps: District needs to fix funding system for school sports

Extracurriculars are key in developing students into well-rounded adults

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.

Editor's note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. To contact Miller or submit local high school sports scores, game highlights and photographs for his weekly Pleasanton Preps column, email him at acesmag@aol.com.

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Comments

18 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jun 18, 2019 at 11:19 am

I agree that sports teach valuable lessons in teamwork. But I take exception to the comment "Something sorely missing in this generation is a lack of social skills."

I interact regularly with students at Amador and PMS, and I have found their social skills are just fine. In fact, I believe kids today not only interact just as well as when I was a kid, but they are a lot nicer and respectful than us kids from the 80's. Think back, honestly. Amador was full of flat-out jerks. I tell my kids about the stuff students did to each other back then, and they are bewildered. The early implementation of the community of character is working in this town.

As for teamwork, the schools do a great job of creating teamwork assignments in classes. FAR more than when I was a kid. As as someone who played sports, I see my kids learning all the same teamwork lessons I learned on the field. They are just learning them through group projects...and all the pain, cooperation, and compromise that entails. Good on them.

I agree sports play an important role in schools and I would like us all to be taxed at a rate that covers sports. But let's drop the stereotype of kids lacking social skills because of technology. You sound like my parents when we got an Atari 1600.


6 people like this
Posted by Alfred
a resident of Foothill High School
on Jun 19, 2019 at 9:05 am

"The reorganization of the athletic director positions at both Amador Valley and Foothill were detrimental."

With regards to FHS, I must fundamentally disagree with your position. The AD has/ad allowed toxic coaching staff to flourish and continue in FHS. I am speaking directly towards the Frosh head coach and Varsity head coach. After the current frosh coach took over, there was a mass exodus of players going into the 10th grade.

There has not been a single varsity player with anything positive to state regarding that coaching team. Furthermore, the head coach is a bully with a "short man's complex" that goes to great lengths to embarrass & belittle the players. He has even gone so far as to publicly call out a player with an eating disorder for being a "wimp" (words he used were much more vulgar) for having an eating disorder.

I've spent many years as a court mandated reporter in regards to youth, and I can state with 100% certainty [removed: speculative]

More folks would pay their "fair share" and even contribute to picking up the "slack" for those whom cannot afford the $500 cost to wear 20 year old uniforms despite the programming hoarding $xxK in the bank.

When the head of the basketball program (varsity head coach) gets up on stage and openly states, "I only do a 8 man rotation and only fill all 15 slots to get the money for those slots.", that's the problem. Why, as a parent, would I want to contribute my hard earned money to a program that does NOT value any of the children, let alone the non-starters.

You want FHS basketball parents to pay their fair share, try:
1) Purchase new uniforms from frosh to varsity and trash the circa 1988 uniforms
2) Place a proper person at head of the program and not a demeaning, egotistical person whom has NEVER played the game at any level
3) Be transparent regarding where our money goes when we write those hefty checks.


11 people like this
Posted by Spanakopita
a resident of Golden Eagle
on Jun 19, 2019 at 3:26 pm

I usually find Dennis Miller‘s articles thoughtful, but this one is pretty poor. The arguments he makes against class learning and in favor of athletics are ridiculously simplistic. This just feels lazy and cliched.


12 people like this
Posted by Spudly
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Jun 19, 2019 at 6:00 pm

This statement:

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.

Makes me say: I feel adults are worse than kids at this point in terms of social graces and excessive phone usage.


6 people like this
Posted by Michelle
a resident of Golden Eagle
on Jun 19, 2019 at 8:16 pm

The author is out of touch regarding today’s high school sports environment. It is and will always be a conflict of interest to have a head Varsity coach double as an AD. I am only familiar with one school but I’ve heard the other has the same problems-how does a parent go confidentially to discuss your concerns with an AD who is best friends with the coach? Answer, you don’t it you don’t want your child blackballed

This is not the 70’s anymore with the student body only caring about football, basketball and baseball. There is so much more at these schools that promote teamwork, dedication and discipline and they fund their own way.


11 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jun 19, 2019 at 8:36 pm

I honestly dont have too much gripe paying some of the burden on the sports programs.....but it should come as a trade off to, better schools, better programs, more education time, etc. We are getting none of that in exchange. Where are our tax dollars going?

How much money would we recoup if we prevented the union members from spiking their pension payouts by basing it on their last yr of pay and vacation vs a career weighted avg? Seems like the tax payer is getting screwed more and more every day


2 people like this
Posted by Mark Miller, PUSD Trustee
a resident of Mission Park
on Jun 22, 2019 at 11:57 am

Our budget is a public document, and the public is encouraged to participate in the District's budgeting process by offering your thoughts and opinions. Unfortunately, the public hearing on the 2019/20 budget occurred at our last Board Meeting on the 11th, but there will be a final discussion and possible approval of the budget at this Tuesday's meeting. Below is a link to the agenda, which contains the documents to be shared in the meeting, including the budget and our assumptions used in creating the budget. I hope any and all with an interest in the budget (or any other topic) will attend and offer your voice.

Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by JJ
a resident of Birdland
on Jun 22, 2019 at 9:47 pm

I also felt that Dennis Miller’s article in the Weekly was out of touch. My kids went to Amador and having the head coach of the baseball team also be the athletic director, was a complete conflict of interest. There were issues that needed to be addressed but we’re never handled because the problem and who should have been the solution, were one in the same.


5 people like this
Posted by Albert
a resident of Nolan Farms
on Jun 23, 2019 at 8:38 am

This article really demonstrates the "good old boys" network of support that has plagued sports programs, both in high school and college. This kind of attitude is EXACTLY why the school board made the right move to replace these athletic directors.


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