High School Athlete Comments on Pay-To-Play: Is it the beginning of the end?

SINGAPORE - AUGUST 24: Antonieta Bianchi of Argentina is challenges Marloes Keetels of the Netherlands during the Girls Hockey Gold Medal match between the Netherlands and Argentina on day 10 of the Youth Olympics at Seng Kang Hockey Stadium on August 24, 2010 in Singapore. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

This past summer I highlighted the current trend of high school athletic departments charging ever- increasing participation fees to athletes playing sports. Both my articles, Pay-To-Play Already Here In Illinois: The Days of "Free" High School Sports Are Gone and Reality Check For Cutting Of High School Sports In 2010, emphasize the direction many schools are being forced into due to shrinking school budgets. What this has created is a shortfall of funds for the variety of sports opportunities they offer with the only solution being to make cuts and/or pass on the added expenses to the athletes and their families.

As one who works within the school system, I see the impact this can and does have on high school sports as a whole. However, mine is not the only perspective. Athlete themselves are starting to feel the pinch of tight budgets and, when given the opportunity, are speaking out.

Naomi Kiura's piece, The End of High School Sports," on The Detroit Blog at Time.com is an excellent example of just such an opportunity. In it, Naomi, a high school athlete in soccer and field hockey, explains how the increase in fees to play (from $175 per sport, 2-sport cap, to a $350 one-time fee for every participating athlete) is creating a financial burden for many.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times (01/23/2009 Tarpon Springs) East Lake High School girls soccer player Stephanie Ferro Photo via Newscom

Additionally, she reveals that the increase in fees are not the only changes of impact as her school has cut transportation to away games for smaller programs. This will force athletes in many sports to have to find their own transportation to and from games. And if the program does order a bus for the team's use, there is an additional cost for that bus.

This is a first for me; I have yet to hear of a school or district not picking up the transportation to away games for their athletes. I would think this could cause some major problems for athletes, parents, and the program, something Naomi also points out in her article.

Another issue, coming out of a conversation Naomi had with her school's athletic director, was the possibility that student athletes may not try out for teams if there is no guarantee of playing time. The thought for some athletes may go like this, "Why pay a $350 fee to work my butt off, not play, and quite possibly (smaller programs) have to find my own ride to away games?"

The title of Kiura's piece, The End of High School Sports, is put in proper perspective with the last comment she makes - "I hope I am wrong -- and that this important part of high school survives."

Me too, Naomi, me too!!!

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