School size does matter for athletics |

School size does matter for athletics

Tribune file photoShelly Zaskoda

The message is loud and clear in businesses across the nation — cut the budget, reorganize, layoff, save more money! It’s always about the money and, unfortunately, school districts are no different.

Although I’d never venture to challenge the reality of what expenditures it takes to manage the huge bureaucracy of education, I do feel it noteworthy to express my concerns about the current dilemma Whittell High is facing because of money — another controversial sports realignment.

Just as Whittell is settling into its 2A birth — quite nicely I might add — for all of its sports teams (except soccer which remained 3A due to lack of enough 2A schools close enough to play), there has been serious talk about moving Whittell and other smaller schools into a 3A league by the 2004-05 school year. Why? Travel expenses to get to other 2A schools have been deemed too costly.

With the exception of football, all of Whittell’s sports teams (which often struggle to field a team because of numbers) would be forced to move up to a 3A league and, as a result, be consistently facing much larger schools that have the capability of drawing more and stronger players.

In the proposed realignment, Whittell, the smallest school with 236 students, would be competing against Sparks, the largest school with 1,135 students. Does this seem fair? Shouldn’t athletes get an equal chance to succeed in their sport by competing against schools of the approximate same size?

Also, if school districts and the NIAA are taking a realistic look at certain sports (like leaving football 2A because of its physical aspects), shouldn’t they translate this same consideration to all sports that have their own unique physical demands? In my eyes, the problem is not that a team has to win most or every time, but it does seem important they get at least a fair opportunity to win on an even playing field.

Several student-athletes feel as I do, that defeat after defeat would be demoralizing and their experience would be compromised. They say they want to be able to play a good game — win or lose — and not get slaughtered every time. Many said they would probably not come out for a sport if their best efforts could never measure up fairly to the competition.

Obviously, someone came up with a fair system to keep things competitive by classifying schools according to their student population — and that is a good thing. Changing that system because of current financial difficulties will only hurt the students who have been taught — all along — that organized sports at the correct level help them to develop better self-esteem while offering them a sense of fair play, team work, sportsmanship and leadership.

Before certain sports become obliterated in smaller schools, I urge those in charge accept that this is just one of the important costs of maintaining a successful (school) business; hence, they should bite the bullet and find another way to save money that won’t disturb the balance of an even playing field and penalize its athletes with way-out-of-their-league matches.

Brian Mehrer, Whittell’s dean of students/athletic director spoke optimistically: “I would be very surprised if the realignment passes due to the fact that most 2A schools don’t agree with it.”

For the sake of the students, I too hope, administrators and politicians will think outside the box and find a way to keep fairness in all school athletic programs.

Shelly Zaskoda is a senior at Whittell High School.

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