City League, WPIAL merger still far off - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "'What would it mean, in terms of what time kids would have to leave in the afternoon to go to games? What would our costs be for the transportation? What about our families who don't have access to a car? How do they get to watch their daughter play basketball if it's not here in Pittsburgh? Those are some of the things we need to think about.'"Her concern is unfounded.
To join the WPIAL is just what students, teachers, coaches and families need when it comes to missing less classroom time.
Presently, in the PPS City League, (District 8, not WPIAL), the sports schedules include plenty of games and matches at 2:15 pm. The kids need to miss their last period, at the least, even if playing a HOME game. The kids who are going to play the game at another school's pool, gym or field depart earlier and often have to miss most of the afternoon of classes.
Meanwhile, afternoon games -- while kids are still to be in classes -- do not happen on a daily basis within the WPIAL schedule. The WPIAL is filled with evening games. Then parents can get home from work and go to watch their children play. And, above all, the students don't need to be pulled from classes.
In the city, we play a lot of 2 pm games because if the kids when to a whole day of school, then had to care for themselves for a couple of hours and get on a bus at 5 pm or so, some whould not show up. And with an evening game, there are other time problems too, such as a return trip to home at 10 or 11 pm, often on a school night.
The abundance of 2 pm games on the PPS sports schedule is not 'fan friendly' nor 'family friendly.' Getting younger siblings to the high school games are often impossible too.
With the current system, plenty of athletes miss plenty of classes, and those coaches who are teachers miss as well. I've heard of baseball coaches who are also teachers in core subjects who have to miss two consecutive weeks of classes with those in periods 6 and 7. They are in the building until the team needs to go to play a game, either home or away, with a 1 pm dismissal. That isn't fair to the students who have those periods with those teachers to miss so much instructional time.
In the city league, those afternoon games are a big problem. Moving to evening and night games makes another set of problems, no doubt. But, when it comes to missing class time, there would be a lot less of that going on with a move to the WPIAL.
We talked in the athletic reform committee about a few elements that would need to occur to make the move to the WPIAL work for the PPS student athletes in terms of the schedule adjustments to evening matches.
+ Night games and longer bus rides in some instances means that the kids get back to the school at later times. Arrival to the school at 9, 9:30, 10, or 10:30 pm is not out of the question. Consider a Friday night football game that starts at 7:30 pm. Those kids are getting back to their home school after an away game at 11 pm or so. The rub is with PAT, the public bus schedules, and a city-wide magnet. Students get to their home schools after the game but these are not NEIGHBORHOOD schools any more. A kid who goes to a North Side or East Side school might live in the other end of the city, say the South Side. We know that the bus schedules have been greatly reduced. The non-peak times of buses are on a schedule that is often one hour between pick-ups, if the bus runs at all. Using mass transit and getting from Peabody or Westinghouse at 10 or 11 pm to the North Side or West End after a big game is asking plenty.
As a solution, we'd need to work hard to drop off kids at various parts of the city from the team bus on the way home and the bus would need to have to make a run out to various points after visiting the home school. Car pools are necessary too.
+ Night games are fan friendly. They'd attract more people. It is dark. In the winter, it is also cold.
+ The student athletes need places at the schools to be open for them upon their return. Getting dropped off by a team bus and waiting outside is not prudent.
+ The student athletes need places at the schools open to them for non-playing time situations. Kids need places to hang and be productive from 2:30 pm (end of school day) to they depart at 5 pm for an away game or are due to hit the locker-room for their home game at 6 pm. Team rooms, weight rooms, cardio rooms, training facilities, student lounges, on-school coffee shops, library access and rec room settings are needed. Getting into the library to do homework after school is a problem now. To extend library time to 6 pm, only now and then as homework is due and as the team needs it -- while eating even -- is a dreamworld fantasy the way things operate now.
+ The student athletes need to be concerned with nutrition and food. We are hungry. We need a good meal. We need to eat after school on game days and practice days. We need to hydrate. We need more than a vending machine. Kids should not need to sneak to find access to a microwave oven just to have something warm to eat before or after practice and games.
With an evening game, many of the kids won't have the time to go home after school, eat, do homework, and return for the game. They'll need to be productive at the school in places where they don't get into trouble.
People have been known to freak out when a single McDonalds wrapper comes back into the school's doors. I'm talking about PRINCIPALS. Sure, kids need to put their trash in the cans, but expectations and hospitality at the schools for being a place for our young people to settle and be secure are far from ideal within PPS. They've been promised student lounges in the past and they've never been delivered, unless there is a whole building re-hab as is the case at Sci-Tech. Even there, getting access to a student lounge in odd times is doubtful.
We need to care for our kids well beyond the end of the school day or the end of the last play in the game. And often, the kids face hostilities around their schools even from within. Perhaps this is part of the duties of the boosters and volunteers, granted. But those in PPS have a lock it and leave it mentality that can't work with a reform agenda that keeps our kids productive settings.