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Our Opinion: No more Hail Marys

“And if he dies, he dies.”

— Ivan Drago (Rocky IV)

Or, probably better said…

“We spend a lot of time as a board talking about participation,” school board member Joe Colosimo said. “Each and every year we find another way to put a band-aid on it. We’re in charge. At some point, you make decisions. I think we ought to consider the idea of going to county-wide stuff.”

And maybe this is the start.

Or not.

On Monday, the school board’s personnel, athletics, and co-curricular activities committee discussed the district’s new online sports registration process. The deadline to register for fall sports is July 8.

The number of students registered at that point will determine if a program will be provided and, if so, how many coaches will be needed.

PERFECT.

This is the perfect opportunity to stop kicking the can down the road… the perfect opportunity for individual schools, individual sports teams and bands to put up — the numbers — or shut up. No more last-second Hail Marys.

July 8 will give the district plenty of time to do what we think — and apparently what a board member or two thinks — is inevitable.

“I’m tired of our focus groups,” Colosimo said. “Every focus group is interested in their mascot or their colors. Dad wants little Bobby to be a Knight, or a Dragon, or an Eagle, or a Wolverine.”

“If we got with focus groups, we know what we’re going to get,” Superintendent Amy Stewart said. “They weren’t interested in making the big, pro-active choices. Let’s set up parameters by which, if a program dies, it dies.”

We’re sorry to tell you this, but it’s the truth… this rationale is not punishing students. Some of us are not too far removed from high school sports ourselves, or we’re parents of current student-athletes, or we’re even current high school coaches. Students who really want to play school sports will be able to play school sports — even if we consolidate programs.

“Bobby,” as Colosimo pointed out, doesn’t care as much about being “a Knight, or a Dragon, or an Eagle, or a Wolverine” as his mom and dad do.

“We don’t want to drive this far to…”

Stop.

We’ve been driving kids to practices for years — with Little League, or travel sports, or a dance class.

So, we agree that with this online registration — and the deadline of July 8 — the board now has plenty of time to make decisions on sports programs, band programs, etc.

Let’s go a step further. Let’s make completely sure each and every program has appropriate registration benchmarks that will be adhered to.

The committee heard information about the registration benchmarks — when programs will be cut when they will be on probation, and when they will have additional coaches.

You can read about it on page A1.

As an example, football programs require 22 registered students. With fewer than 20 students, the program will be cut. If there are 20 or 21 participants, the program will be allowed to compete for one year. If there are not 22 students the following year, the second year of probation will not be allowed and the program will be canceled.

Coordinator of District-Wide Athletics Rick Gignac could generally explain the numbers required for various sports based on the thinking of community committees. For some sports — volleyball, and football, for example — the limit is twice the number that plays at any given time. That allows for scrimmaging.

Board member Jeff Labesky argued that starting a football team at 22 would mean being unable to scrimmage a few weeks into the season.

“That’s a great start-up number,” Labesky said. “When we get to day 20 and we’re down to 16, what do we do? Are we going to allow that program to continue?”

Stewart said the proposal would call for a program to be eliminated if a team can’t finish its season. “If you don’t have enough kids to finish the season… you’re done,” she said. “Your school’s not going to have football next season. We don’t want to put our teams in that situation.”

Hey, board members, all of you… WAKE UP! That number for football should be a minimum of 30 or more.

Does that mean you’re going to lose a program or two?

Yes.

Are you going to lose some players?

Yes.

Are you going to have to recruit students to play a sport they didn’t have enough interest to sign up for in the first place?

Not anymore.

Are you going to put your student-athletes in jeopardy of having to play injured?

Is your team going to be in jeopardy of forfeiting mid-season?

Is your team going to continue constantly getting crushed by bigger, more experienced programs?

Hopefully, not anymore.

Maybe, just maybe, this county, this district, will come together.

As one.

We already compete together in club and travel sports and have for years.

Maybe we won’t be Dragons, or Knights, or Wolverines, or Eagles.

But we will be right.

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