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Pay-to-play trend not a good idea/Paul Peterson

June 24, 2011
The Daily Mining Gazette

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe the current pay-to-play trend at high schools all around the country is not a positive one.

Yes, I'm aware that many school districts are hurting financially. In these days of near recession - or worse - and dwindling enrollments, money can be scarce.

But somehow the idea of having parents pay to have their children participate in sports strikes me as counterproductive.

The bigger schools in our area, Houghton and Calumet, usually don't have a problem finding enough kids to play on their sports teams.

The Gremlins and Copper Kings offer more sports than other schools, but seem to have more than enough players for each sport.

But smaller schools are continually looking for kids to fill out the rosters of their teams.

Ewen-Trout Creek High, for instance, will to go 8-man football this fall because of a lack of numbers.

Other smaller schools often field basketball teams with six or seven kids on the team.

That's in sharp contrast to say, the 1960s. Back then, even the smallest Class D schools in the area always had ten players on their basketball teams.

It's hard enough nowadays to get kids interested in coming out for school sports. The popularity of such activities as skate boarding, extreme skiing etc. has had a detrimental effect on participation.

If the schools began charging for kids to play, look for those figures to take another dip.

Ontonagon Area Schools is the latest in our area to go to the pay-to-play concept. OAHS will tentatively begin assessing a fee of $100 per varsity sport and $60 for junior high sports this coming fall.

In a county that already has one of the state's highest unemployment rates, asking for participation money might not go over very well. Particularly if a family has more than one child taking part in a sport.

Not to mention the problems that could arise if a parent pays the fee - and then sees their child not get as much playing time as other kids.

Believe me, that could create a myriad of problems for coaches, who must still try to win games.

Around the country, some schools give exceptions for athletes who cannot afford the fee to play sports. But administrators and parents have raised concerns about creating a two-tier system in a public school, in which some kids pay, and others don't.

Booster clubs have long been a part of the local sports scene. The Lakes Linebackers Club, among others, have played big roles in our area in promoting sports at their respective schools.

Members of the Ontonagon Boosters Club say they were never asked for input on the pay-to-play proposal, however.

People are asking if there is another way to gain funding for prep athletics. The answer is uncertain, but the success of the Osterman Athletic Complex in Baraga offers food for thought.

BHS alumnus Russ Osterman provided a good portion of the funding for a new football field and track a few years ago.

Why not seek funding from financially well-off alumni to help defray the costs of prep varsity sports? I know it's already being done in other states, notably Texas, Ohio and California.

It would be better than the current pay-to-play policy being pushed.



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