The "New" Landscape In High School Sports, Not a Pretty Picture

Apr 10, 2010; Arcadia, CA, USA; General view of the girls' mile in the 43rd Arcadia Invitational at Arcadia High. From left: Saylah Baserian of Clovis, Lyndsy Mull of Redondo, Baylee Mires of Mead (WA), Alli Billmeyer of Torrey Pines and winner Maddie Meyers of the Northwest School (WA). Photo via Newscom

Moving 10 years into the future, let's take a look at what high school sports just might look like in the year 2020. Of course anything written today regarding that future is all speculative but what the heck...right?

There sure are plenty of signs (in just about every state in the country) pointing to what could very well be right around the corner for many of our high school athletic programs. Some of the indicators I address myself in the following pieces:

Part I: Pay-To-Play Already Here In Illinois: The Days of "Free" High School Sports Are Gone

Part II: Pay-To-Play Already Here In Illinois: The Days of "Free" High School Sports Are Gone

Reality Check For Cutting Of High School Sports In 2010

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

CAPTION: (Miami, 12/10/2005).STORY SUMMARY: Ponte Vedra Beach Nease quarterback Tim Tebow breaks away from Armwood defensive back Akeem Joseph enroute to a 70-yard gain. Tebow is one of the most highly recruited, if not the most highly recruited, high school football players in the country. On Tuesday, Dec. 13, Tebow will announce his college committment, which many expect to be the University of Florida. On Saturday, Dec. 10 Photo via Newscom

Now close your eyes and picture this. You are in your hometown for the weekend after many years away (work, different city, just adult life in general) and you decide to drive over to your old high school just to reminisce. It is a Friday night, in the fall, and you figure that most townies are at the football game, at least that is how it was back in your day when you went there. And wouldn't it be great to take in a high school football game one last time?

However, as you drive up to the school you notice that the school seems much larger than you remember. In fact, you begin to notice a lot has changed as you circle in your car around to the back of the school where the football stadium (field) used to be.

As you scan the landscape around where this "larger" school now sits, you notice that many of the playing fields have been replaced by a new park, homes where the football and baseball fields once stood, and a small strip mall. It almost looks as if they plucked your old school from its foundations, added new pieces, and placed it right in the middle of a new community with very little to no field space around it. What happened???

Largo High School cheerleaders cheer for their team at St. Petersburg Photo via Newscom

Well, one possibility is detailed by Michael Arace in his commentary, High-school sports as we know them on way out, in The Columbus Dispatch ( In this piece Michael comments on the budgetary issues facing many of our high schools - leading to the pay-to-play trends we are seeing, as well as the development of the current "club" sports system in the U.S.

Basically, he runs through a timeline of what has happened to youth sports and high school sports, over the last 100+ years.

In addition, he expands on the diminishing and/or inappropriate funding for school sports programs as levies fail in some communities. His conclusion, "I submit this trend is not about to be reversed."

He goes on to say that he supports the need for a governing body to oversee "youth sports," since he infers that high school sports are on their "way out" of the school system, and that there is very little supervision of this multi-million dollar industry. An industry "where injuries are on the rise and burned-out children and out-of-control adults are becoming more common."

CARLSBAD, CA - NOVEMBER 9:  Runningback Armani Aburto #35 of the Carlsbad Mighty Lancers (8&under) reacts to his team's loss to the Torrey Pines Falcons during the Pop Warner Division Finals on November 9, 2002 at Carlsbad High School, in Carlsbad, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

As I stated in my piece, Government Regulation of Youth Sports: Is it Time???, I am not sure yet where I stand on a governing body overseeing youth sports. On paper it sounds like a good idea, however, I would need to get clarification on how this might actually work in practice. Leaving something like this in the hands of government might not be the best solution anyway.

One thing I most certainly agree with is Mr. Arace's inference that high school sports might very well be on their way out. Yep, the landscaping is changing, and the picture that is developing is not necessarily a good one.

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