Cutting Sports Now, What’s Next?
Faced with the cuts in sports funding, Woonsocket athletic director George Nasuti is taking a proactive approach in hopes of averting a similar situation that occurred nearly two decades ago when several sports programs were weakened and athletes fled to other schools. He called a meeting of athletes and parents:
“Either we work to fund this or we don’t have it,” [Nasuti] told the few hundred athletes, parents and coaches who gathered yesterday afternoon in the high school auditorium. “I want to move forward. I don’t want to wait.”
Everyone involved must be willing to roll up their sleeves and make some sacrifices, Nasuti told those in attendance.
That means coaches will work for free and parents and athletes will have to fund raise, volunteer at events and continue to lobby school officials and politicians.
“You have to step up and tell people why you need sports,” he told the students, “and why you have a right to the same opportunities as students [in other communities].
“I’m afraid about the future, but I’m excited about moving forward,” said Nasuti, who was encouraged by yesterday’s turnout and also hopes some local businesses might be willing to contribute financially.
Sports and other activities like band or art are an important part of a well-rounded education and can help keep kids focused on their studies as time-management becomes crucial to success both on and off the field.
Among the athletes who attended, junior Katie Bijesse stood up and described how being a member of Woonsocket’s girls soccer team that won the Division IV state championship last fall motivated her to get her grades up. She expressed her concern that the absence of sports will result in a higher dropout rate at the school, along with an increase in drugs, violence and teen pregnancies.
“Katie’s played soccer probably since she was 6 years old. Soccer’s her entire life. … It’s kept her on the straight and narrow,” said Janice Bijesse, adding that she and her husband may consider having their daughter transfer to Mount St. Charles if Woonsocket no longer has a soccer program. “I work with DCYF and I see what can happen if kids don’t have activities after school, so for a lot of reasons [sports are] so important. Absolutely.”
Studies show that teenage girls involved in athletics, for instance, are less likely to become pregnant than their peers while sports channel boys natural competitiveness and teach self-control.
I’ve been involved in non-school related youth sports for a few years and can attest to the hard work it takes to successfully run an all-volunteer league. I wish Woonsocket parents and athletes all the luck in the world. Their “team” approach seems more responsible than North Smithfield’s “pay to play” scheme:
With what he described as a “heavy heart,” Athletic Director Matthew Tek laid out for School Committee members on Tuesday Rhode Island’s first comprehensive fee structure for school sports.
Committee members in turn voted unanimously to move ahead with a “pay-to-play” system that will save a quarter of the Athletic Department’s budget while restoring junior varsity and middle school sports if all pending issues are resolved.
Under the plan as proposed, students who play sports will pay:
* $175 for a spring season
* $175 for a fall season, except football
* $300 to participate in football
* $175 for a winter sports season, except hockey
* $375 to participate in hockey
There’s a maximum of $600 for any family with students playing school sports. That cap would increase to $900 if students participated in either football or hockey.
The fees would be due after a North Smithfield student makes a school team, and would add up to about $60,000 or more, said Tek.
Sports fees are nothing new in non-school sports. I’d imagine that, while painful, most parents will pay for their student-athletes to play. But what about the kids whose parents can’t afford to “pay to play”? In non-school related leagues, such is the one in which I’m involved, scholarships or financial aid is made available to help out struggling families. I don’t see such a provision in North Smithfield’s new plan. That is too bad, because it is often participation in sports that keep poor or at risk kids in school. Hopefully some measures will be taken to help those kids out.
I wonder if fees for music or art will soon follow. Will the kids be required to buy their own paint or sheet music? And then what? Purchasing text books? As parents are asked to pay for more of the ancillaries of a supposedly free and public school system, how many kids will miss out because their parents can’t afford it? Unless parents start to demand that politicians get smarter about managing the 80-90% (salaries, benefits) part of the budget that doesn’t directly affect students–instead of cutting the 10% that does–they will continue to pay more to maintain the status quo, at best, in public education.