Athletes' Inaction

Well-heeled district eliminates competitive sports programs in middle schools

Off the record, coaches and teachers suggest that a big motivation for cutting sports programs has to do with their inconveniences. Buildings must stay open longer to accommodate the teams, and principals have to deal with irate parents wondering why Junior didn't make the team.

Teachers were paid an extra $1,200 to $1,700 to coach teams. Now they receive about a third of that amount to supervise intramurals.

"We're still here four or five nights a week," says Engelman. "We're doing less coaching, but I don't think we're getting the output."

School administrators are quick to point out that the Paradise Valley area has numerous private youth sports programs--soccer, softball, baseball and basketball programs for their athletically inclined students. However, some of those private programs are very pricey--one competitive soccer league, for example, charges upward of $600 in fees, which places it out of reach for lower-income families. And they require a lot of parents' time for transportation to and from games and practices, often in the middle of the workday.

"They're saving $75,000," says Engelman. "I think within the next few years, there are going to be more challenges because what are children going to do between 2:30 and 6 when their parents are still working? They're going to get in trouble. They're junior highers."

Less important, perhaps, the high school coaches wonder what they'll be facing when these inexperienced youngsters come out for high school teams.

North Canyon High School has decided to step up its open gym programs, which allow younger students to work out with the high school teams during the off-season, and to allow the middle school intramural teams to play exhibition games during halftimes at the high school games.

Joe Stetser, the North Canyon athletic director, says he had enough trouble keeping track of his high school athletes, but that since the middle schoolers are denied a competitive program, "we've got to make things available to them. The coaches in the middle schools were getting paid. Now my coaches are doing this basically for free."

James Jurs, superintendent of the Paradise Valley district, acknowledges all of the emotional and philosophical sides of the debate and then cuts to the bottom line.

"If it had not been for the budget resource allocation review process that we went through in the 1994-95 school year, the change would not have happened," he says.

Jurs puts the blame at the State Capitol.
"Slowly but surely in this state, the Legislature is starving public education to the point where these kinds of very unlikely decisions need to be made.

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