Normally, I don't soapbox on this blog. I try to stay away from trying to tell people what's right and wrong ethically in the world of sports. I try to stick to what's happening on the fields, diamonds, courts and rinks.
However, a story I read in today's San Jose Mercury News prompted me to write this morning, especially because this is a matter that concerns where I grew up and programs that helped me along to where I am today.
One of the last bastiens of amateurism in sports today is found in high school. With all the controversy surrounding collegiate athletics, whether it be players receiving improper benefits, not completing classes or the what not, one of the last places to find pure, unadulterated sport is at your local high school.
For those who ever participated in a sport during their high school years (track and field, in my case), you remember what a tremendous experience it was. We all grew as athletes and as people, guided by coaches we'll never forget, and learned lessons in sports and in life that most of us carry with us into adulthood.
For many, after-school sports is a way to stay out of trouble as well. In many neighborhoods and cities across America, playing a sport is a way for school administrators to keep their students off the street once the school day is over and channel their talents towards the positive.
Which brings me to this...today's Mercury News reports that the East Side Union High School District, located in San Jose, CA, is considering cutting all sports programs at their 11 high schools.
Some areas of the East Side, for those who don't know much about the Bay Area, is considered one of the poorer areas of the Silicon Valley. Geraldo Rivera once actually called East San Jose "the ghetto side of town." Areas around Andrew Hill High School and James Lick High School have been historically noted for their high incidence of crime.
I know the economy is bad. It's affecting everyone throughout the United States, especially the education sector.
However, the last I checked, high schools are supposed to be where the youth of America are prepared to enter higher education and the working world. They're supposed to be sources of spirit and pride for their surrounding communities, and like it or not, these high school teams are most often the catalyst for this spirit.
Even more importantly, of course, is that for thousands of students at Andrew Hill, James Lick, Santa Teresa, Overfelt, Evergreen Valley, Mt. Pleasant, Piedmont Hills, Yerba Buena, Independence, Oak Grove and Silver Creek, their after-school sports programs, which for some provide springboards to playing in college and for all provide a way to stay in shape, gain positive support from coaches and teammates and, most importantly, stay out of trouble, will be gone.
Maybe I'm naive, maybe I'm short sighted...whatever it is...all I know is that I'm 23 years old...only 6 years removed from my own high school experience as a thrower and runner for Cupertino High School. I'll always remember those times for what they did for my self-confidence and athleticism.
Taking these sports away from thousands of student-athletes would be a huge mistake.