Sunday, December 15, 2013

PPS Sports

Sports Mixed Signals with Recent PPS Decisions
By Mark Rauterkus, PPS Coach

This article was sent to The Thomas Merton Center for possible publication in The New People newsletter.

Some historic adjustments in the city sports landscape are expected in the 2014 sports seasons with Pittsburgh Public Schools, but conflicting currents are clashing as recent board votes are at odds with suggestions from the superintendent in the State of the District address. 

In football, the Westinghouse Bulldogs are to jump out of the City League and into the WPIAL. This league realignment is akin to Pitt's departure from the Big East and entry into the ACC. But other teams have been give the okay from the school board to depart the city league too, including the boys and girls volleyball teams at Obama Academy as well as the swim teams at Brashear and Carrick. 

Different, sports ending clouds are hovering over PPS as "fewer sports" are being suggested by Linda Lane, Ph.D., superintendent. The axe may fall upon swimming, wrestling, tennis, golf, and all intramurals at the high schools and middle school cuts to swimming and volleyball teams. 

These spots ramifications could prove to make an impact on the lives of youth in Pittsburgh and the greater community. Thousands of additional students could be departing the district in the season to come as for better opportunities at suburban and charter schools.

The Westinghouse coaches and school officials pushed the plan of switching to the WPIAL through a positive vote of the PPS School Board in October. This makes the first migration beyond the city league for any PPS school in football. 

Every basketball team in PPS, both boys and girls, remain in the City League, also known as PIAA Section 8. 

In the fall of 2012, a select group of sports teams from PPS migrated into the WPIAL. The boys swim team at PPS Obama Academy claimed the first and only WPIAL section title among PPS schools with an undefeated season in class AA. The squad beat foes of Carlington, Montour, Cornell, South Fayette and Bishop Canevin. At Obama Academy, the only previous sports squads to go into the WPIAL are in swimming and soccer, now volleyball seems likely.

Allderdice has the most number of teams in the WPIAL including swimming, golf, cross country, and baseball. Dice adds field hockey to the WPIAL in 2014. 

Baseball had more teams go to the WPIAL: Carrick, Brashear and Allderdice. Hence, a small schedule remained among Perry, Westinghouse and Obama. 

The sports team coop among UPrep, Obama and SciTech is to continue through the  2016 season. Students from those three schools generally combine to form one team. In football, the team is often called USO. 

Pittsburgh Public Schools is at the heart of a great sports town, but PPS has not been offering sporting opportunities to its students to the same degree as those found in suburban Pittsburgh. 

Missing opportunities for the city kids have had ramifications. School spirit suffers, mentoring doesn't happen, petty turf battles fester. Coaching helps kids learn how to "play well with others" or else violence escalates. Sports skills are transferable as athletes learn about devotion, focus, training, teamwork, and rule following. Athletes and teams develop an awareness of relationship with self, with others and with competitors in sports' high-intensity settings that thoroughly engages. 

Throughout the years, much of the outward migration of students from Pittsburgh Public Schools could be attributed to the bare bones sports programs within the city. The city kids played against other city schools and few had chances to face WPIAL competitors. Sure, exceptions exist among the schools and the various teams. Back in the day, the city league was a splendid, robust pursuit that energized the schools and district. 

In recent times, with the changing of high schools and the shrinking school budgets, PPS sports teams might not operate at all. 

To further discuss sports and fitness opportunities in the city, all are invited to attend a session at this year's Summit Against Racism at East Liberty Presbyterian Church on Saturday, January 25, 2014. Or, call or email,, 412-298-3432.

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