Megan Chavez sat slumped in a chair in the lobby of a Broomfield athletic club, trying not to fall asleep. The night before, the talented point guard from Holy Family high school had helped lead her team to their fourth straight Colorado state high school 4A championship. But the celebrating was over. Now Chavez was among a group of approximately 60 or so high school girls getting set to go through a try out session for the BC Denver club basketball team that will begin their season in a couple of weeks and play in tournaments in various parts of the country from then until August.
No wonder she was tired. Megan’s off season lasted roughly 19 hours.
That’s the way it is for many high school athletes these days. They play for their school for three months or so, then return to their club teams and go at it all over again. No school sport is seasonal any longer. They’ve all become year ‘round. In many cases – girl’s basketball being a prime example – the club teams have become more important to the players than their high school programs. It’s the club teams that provide athletes more practice time, more games, and more exposure to college scouts. It’s the club teams where – in many many cases – they get the better coaching, too.
Remember, high school coaches are very poorly paid, and that’s not going to change any time soon. Most have another job that requires the majority of their attention. In some cases, you have a high school coach who’s a teacher and thereby works in the building, etc…but in a lot of cases these days, that’s NOT the case. The coach has another job and coaches on the side. In either case, it’s fair to categorize most high school coaches as volunteers.
Meanwhile, club coaches are well paid professionals, and sometimes run their organizations full time. (Rules prevent club coaches from coaching high school teams.) It’s what they do, and they do it well. So well, in fact, that it’s not impossible to envision a day in the not-to-distant future when club sports completely replace high school sports.
It could happen. After all, there’s that old saying about you get what you pay for, and tax payers by and large are no longer willing to pay for much of anything public school related. In Adams County for example, they just slashed their budget – again – by some $30 million, and middle schools sports were one of the casualties. School district 12 in Adams County will no longer have ANY middle school sports programs.
While the clubs are flourishing, the cash-strapped public schools are scratching and clawing to find a way to pay for extra curricular activities. Safe to say that no high school coach will be getting a pay raise any time soon.
Could this be a perfect storm brewing? Are these horrific budget cuts that are stripping the public schools to the bone going to be the beginning of the end of high school sports? Are those people out there – and you know who you are – who are leading the charge for lower and lower taxes, and who say stupid things like, “I don’t have any kids in school…why should my tax dollars pay for schools?” going to feel bad when their local high school does no longer fields a football team? There are people out there who want to “privatize” everything anyway, why not high school sports?
High school sports used to mean something to communities. The games were a rallying point, a source of civic pride. Now the games – and the public schools in general – don’t mean enough to voters to pass a tiny sales tax increase. In Adams County, in the same place where they just axed all middle school sports, voters said no in 2008 to adding the same exact sales tax increase that was approved in the five county metro area in 1990 to build Coors Field. One tenth-of-one percent. One penny on every $10 spent on non-essential goods and services. When it was passed in the early 90’s, that particular sales tax was so successful that it also built Invesco Field. Had the voters passed that same miniscule sales tax increase in Adams County with the money allocated for the public schools, it could have prevented most if not all of these enormous budget cuts.
So as citizens, we’ve said it’s okay to pay an extra one penny on $10 to build a baseball AND a football stadium for Denver, but we can’t approve that exact same one-tenth of one percent sales tax to raise money for our public schools. I don’t care what your political lean is, Republican, Democrat or whatever, you should be embarrassed by that. It’s an abhorrent statement about what our priorities are as citizens of this metropolitan region when professional stadiums mean more than schools.
So if the radical right wingers who are against anything “tax” related continue to have their way, we could very well see a scenario where in a few years, “Friday Night Lights” might feature the Joe’s Construction Football Club from Longmont playing the Bob’s Steakhouse Football Club from Limon for the state championship. Has a not-so-nice ring to it, doesn’t it?