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Displaying items by tag: high school sports

SARATOGA TODAY — Overcoming repeated bouts with rain, the 5th Annual Saratoga Lacrosse Shootout brought some of the best high school lacrosse teams from across the country together at Gavin Park for a weekend of high intensity competition. Taking place from June 30-July 2, the event saw teams mostly from New York, a good number from New England, and a couple from as far away as Arkansas. These teams competed for a Championship title, and the wider event also featured professional player clinics, coaching clinics, opening night ceremonies and festivities, a players-only lounge, 3-vs.-3 mini lacrosse tournament, Mazzone Catering, and a vendor village.

All photos by www.PhotoAndGraphic.com

Published in Sports
Friday, 19 August 2016 10:03

Pay-to-Play in High School Sports: Bad Idea!

Paying for the privilege to participate in high school sports is still a relatively new thing for me. ‘Participation fees’ is actually a better description since no one is really able to guarantee playing time. I never had to pay to participate in high school sports back in the late 50s and early 60s, while growing up in New York. Other than a few dollars to buy football cleats, socks, basketball shoes etc., New York State is where property taxes and other levy’s funded all academics and extra curricular activities. Up until the 1980’s most states were also this way with regard to funding athletics. Then of course funding challenges in public education, Title IX equity mandates, recessions and expenses of growing athletic programs began to chip away at available funding and the practice of charging pay-to-play fees became more and more common to keep public school athletic programs afloat. New York State does not permit pay-to-play, even though some local school districts experimented with the idea. Here are some pros and cons. Pros: there is no advantage here, so there are no pros. So, what’s wrong with the concept? Increasing the cost of playing sports by implementing pay-to-play, without a doubt, keeps some low-income students from participating, at a time in their lives when they should be trying new things, and at a time in our country when kids are less active than ever. Officials are finding it hard to resist using fees beyond athletics, risking the creation of an a la carte-style education where only students with means can take full advantage of what is offered through public schools. Not to mention that the concept might have the potential to widen the gap between students based on their financial resources. Both must be avoided. The last 40 years of public education have been defined by the demand for more: more classes, more clubs, more services and more sports, especially with the addition of Title IX. For much of that time, those demands have been accompanied by more money. Since the 2008 economic crash, however, pressure on state budgets and property taxpayers has produced sharp cuts in the money sent to schools. In New York State, as a result of underfunding, students are being shortchanged as schools have inadequate supplies, overcrowded classrooms, insufficient numbers of guidance counselors and social workers, understaffed and under resourced libraries, underfunded arts and sports programs, lack of sufficient tutoring and other supports for struggling students and reduced curriculum offerings and after school options. These classroom cuts have the greatest negative impact on students in high needs schools with large concentrations of students in poverty, students with disabilities and English language learners. So school districts across the state are looking for other means to fund certain “extracurricular” programs, like the sports programs, in order to sustain some quality in academics. Andrew Cuomo’s two percent tax cap had short-changed many school districts across New York State, as a result Governor Andrew Cuomo has failed to live up to his constitutional obligations to New York State’s school children. Governor Cuomo has consistently failed in his obligation to provide the resources necessary for all New York State students to receive the “sound basic education” that is guaranteed by New York State’s constitution. Cuomo is delinquent in the amount of $5.9 billion that is owed to the New York State schools as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE). Governor Cuomo’s delinquency perpetuates inequality with the funding gap between wealthy and poor districts being at $8,733 per pupil. So, the athletic programs have become part of this tendency of negligence, for most of New York’s public schools. This information comes from The Public Policy and Education Fund, in an article about the Governor’s failure to keep public schools on track. As a matter of fact Governor Cuomo has butted heads with the NYSUT (teachers’ union) since the day he was voted in as New York State’s leader. The above scenario, of gubernatorial cuts and delinquency funding strategies, has become an issue for at least 35 states across the country. There has been discussion, as well as the implementation of pay-to-play in many states because of the concern of budgetary slashing. Many ideas have evolved to remedy and solve ways for the funding of sports programs. So far, there hasn’t been an ideal model that actually works. In general, it has been, for the majority of the states, to fund public education through property taxation. To use a sports related analogy, school districts, teachers’ salaries, the extracurricular programs, especially athletics have become a political football. I see it in a very different way. I feel, for example, Governor Andrew Cuomo, like some other governors across the states, have this thing about teacher’s unions, let me use the prehistoric label called “union busters.” The concept has been reincarnated from the early 1900s - it might be the underlying force behind cuts to education, and one result being cuts in athletics. But, the subject of the pay-to-play scenario has unfortunately become a bad idea, turning into programs for elitists, for those who can afford to pay to participate. So, not all students would have the opportunity to become involved with athletics, because of the costs. Some states have districts that are charging up to $1,200 for the school year athletics, some states have school districts charging $250 to $600 dollars per sport. So the student who comes from a single parent family and whose mom (usually) who makes barley a sustainable income for her family, might not be able to pay for her child, or children to play school related sports. As a coach, I can see so many related problems. If a child is paying $1,200 to participate on the football team, the coach is pressured to use that kid more than he has planned maybe because the kid just might not be strong enough to physically compete. The biggest problem with pay-to-play might even come from the parents: “I just paid all of this money and my kid isn’t getting the time “I” think he deserves!” Pay-to-play is a dangerous concept, and I see no winners in this game, it changes the scholastic environment from a chance for all versus only a game for the privileged. Quite frankly, it’s the “haves overshadowing the have-nots.” Thoroughly a true opposite of what public education represents.

Published in Sports

The two past weeks has been a run for spring sectional championships for local high school teams. A first time team Sectional Championship for Saratoga boys' Tennis, the Blue Streaks boys' Track and Field won the AA sectional title and a class B sectional runner up performance for Saratoga Catholic boys' baseball team.  


First of all, whether you are aware of it or not, Saratoga High School has a very good tradition in boys and girls tennis and until recently, the boys have been unable to overcome the dominance of teams like Bethlehem, Shen and Niskayuna. The Suburban Council, in my opinion, is one of the top conferences in scholastic tennis for upstate NY. Congratulations to a solid performing tennis lineup, a fairly young one at that, and their Head Coach Tim O'Brien (who also teaches social studies), and the rest of coaching staff for a stellar season.  I feel that Coach Tim O'Brien will continue with future success for the Blue Streaks boys’ tennis team.


Congratulations to the SSHS Track and Field team for winning the Class AA sectional meet last week. A track and field meet, for those who don't understand how it works, is an event that is the sum total of a series of events. There are anywhere from 16 to 18 events that make up a track meet, so there's a lot going on, to say the least. It's really a great spectator sport that has many interesting individual and team aspects to it. This phenomenon takes place at a single area, a smorgasbord, or collection of a variety of athletic endeavors and challenges. My hat goes off to the athletes and Head Coach Chris Conley (who also teaches math) and his staff, for their accomplishment. 


I would also like to pass on my salutary endorsement to the Saratoga Catholic baseball team for a great season, a record of 22-2, they finished as runner up in the Class B sectional championship game.  The Saints have a reputation for an excellent high school baseball program. The tradition has an obvious mentor, and leader – Head Coach Phonsey Lambert, who incidentally just passed the 500 career games won milestone. Amazingly, the Saints, year in and year out, are at the top of the baseball leader board of the Capital District and Section 2. Congrats to the Saints and their coaches, one of Coach Lambert's assistants is Dale Long, the namesake of his dad who played MLB.


The Ballston Spa High School softball team won its first ever Class AA Sectional title by upending Suburban Council nemesis Shenendehowa, congrats to Coach Amanda Fifield and the Scotties. Also, about a week ago Greenwich High School baseball team won its first sectional title in 16 years; Burnt Hills swept the boys and girls class A track sectionals; with Mechanicville boys and Greenwich girls track teams winning their respective championships. The Shenendehowa girls' track program won the AA sectional title, by edging out Saratoga, 190.5 to 171 in total points. 


Section 2 has always been a leader in sports throughout the history of New York State interscholastic athletics. New York has eleven regions, or sections, for scholastic athletics. Some sections are known for their dominance of certain sports, like Sections 8 and 11, in the New York City area, are known for their basketball. Section 3, Syracuse area, is also known for basketball, but has a strong football, soccer and lacrosse tradition. Section 2, I feel is a little more diverse with sports like, ice hockey, basketball, cross country/track, soccer and football. There are many more noteworthy sections in the state known for excellence in certain sports.


On the other side of things, some teams that did not win sectional titles, but were very successful, like the Saratoga High School girls' track and field program, under the direction of Art and Linda Kranick, as usual, were still in the hunt and had a great season. 


As for the Saratoga Catholic track and field program, in its third year of existence, the boys won the first ever track meet against MeKeel Christian of Scotia, and followed with a second win the following week. The girls did very well, but there aren't enough team members to score a victory.  The boys and girls both established many personal and school records this season.


A note of interest: Saratoga Catholic has moved out of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) and beginning this coming fall the Saints will be competing in the Wasaren league. The transition will be a challenging endeavor for the school. The Wasaren is an excellent league, but I feel it's a good move for SCC's athletic program. 


In case you missed it: The Upstate New York Basketball Hall of Fame inducted the class of 2016 a couple of weekends ago. Local inductees were: Saratoga's Joe Britton, 1988 Section 2 Championship team. In 1992, he was named for D3 All American Honors while at Hartwick College; Superintendent of Mechanicville City School District, Michael McCarthy, Schuylerville High School's early 70s Section 2 Champs and Clarkson College standout; Robin Chudy, Saratoga's girls varsity basketball coach, who starred at Union College, and well known referee Gary Kalinkewicz, ranked as one of the areas top officials. I would like to extend my congratulations to those recipients. 



I'm not one who likes to compare eras of local sports, because it gets to be "my dog is better than your dog" and it can become personal, but in the near future I intend to talk about the "good old days" of section 2 sports. An era that I'm referring to relates to a time that drifts from the late 50s through the mid to late 70s, with an emphasis on the 1960s which is a time that I can give an account of since it's part of my history.

Published in Sports


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