Spare Sports

Decision time regarding budget reductions for our area school districts draws near. At this writing, we see no indication from Topeka of revenue enhancements, which means districts will need to act upon ?worst? or ?near worst? budget scenarios for the 2010-11 year.

At USD 410, that puts five athletic programs vulnerable to the chopping block. We would urge the board of education not to drop the ax. Here?s why:

? Participation in activities is a significant contributor to a well-rounded educational experience. Our hunch is that many alums would say they learned more lasting lessons about successful living in the activities arena than in the classroom. Setting goals, discipline, initiative, teamwork, dealing with adversity and success?these lessons are critical survival skills in today?s world.

? Activities and academics have equal value in an effective educational program. We?ve heard the argument that sports is over emphasized compared to academics. That may be true in our culture, but it is our observation that at USD 410 both are strongly emphasized.

? Activities are an important tool for keeping students on board and in school. Activities capture the imagination of some students in a way academics don?t. When students participate in activities they are held accountable by coaches to maintain classroom and behavioral standards. In the extreme, activities can keep students from checking out of school, physically or mentally. Super?inten?dent Steve Noble calls activities one of the best ?at-risk? programs in the district.

? Cutting athletic programs may have unintended consequences. In recent weeks we have heard about students who may transfer out of the district in order to continue participating in their sport of choice. It may be hyperbole for some, but this district can ill afford to lose students unnecessarily. With each loss comes a reduction in funding of around $7,000.

? USD 410 has shown it can sustain its current athletic programs at a high level. The issue is number of participants. So far, HHS has drawn enough to field competitive teams in all sports. If enrollment continues to decline, this may change in the future. But for now the numbers are adequate.

? We live in a world of choice. Yes, the spring-sports plate is full, but to move from five sports to one would be a radical adjustment for students who have had the opportunity to follow their preferences in the past. Beyond that, in today?s world our students are increasingly drawn to less healthy and helpful choices offered by television, the Internet and video games. We don?t want to make those choices more enticing to youth than they already are.

The USD 410 board has a track record of making good choices for students. We believe it will make the best decisions possible in these economically challenging times, when the choices are increasing between bad and worse. ?DR

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