Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sports Reform aricle in the Trib

Future of City League uncertain - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "The public received its first look at the potential future of athletics within Pittsburgh Public Schools on Monday night -- a future that could see the end of the century-old City League."
Let's get into this article.
At a community meeting at Oliver High School, Jake House, the leader of the school district's athletics overhaul committee, presented comprehensive working recommendations for athletic reform in the district. The idea for reform was born in part from an internal Title IX audit the district performed last year, but it also came from the City League's dwindling participation numbers and lack of success at the state level.
Not really. The Title IX audit was unwelcomed by me. The Title IX audit told us what we already knew. The Title IX audit was a huge waste of time. It cost a little money, but it was a sink that delayed the reform efforts by more than two years.

The idea for reform of athletics has been put upon Mr. Roosevelt since he arrived in Pittsburgh -- by me and others. For years I told him that this needed to happen. Finally, in January 2010, I got an email from Mr. Roosevelt that he was going to take sports off the back burner.

Before Mark Roosevelt's arrival to Pittsburgh there was another effort at sports reform -- 2001 vintage. I was not on that exact committee but did attend four or five meetings at various locations (East Liberty Libary) to talk among other interested people about those efforts. Dr. John Thompson was in town then. Promises were made -- and then broken. Reminders were made -- and then those got broken too.

If there were 100 suggestions that were made back in 2001, less than five were done. One of the big victories -- middle school boys play fall baseball, not softball. That's nice. My son played baseball this year. Greenfield won the city middle school league. There were a few great teams and players. Allegheny, South Hills, Colfax and others were impressive. Pgh Obama had some good players and good innings too.

This is no "grassroots effort" to reform sports. This is a superintendent ordered effort with a newly hired, full-time employee.

In a grassroots effort to improve the school district's overall athletic program, the wide-ranging proposals have been spread across eight categories: coaching, wellness, connection to academics, sportsmanship, facilities and equipment, transportation and schedules, league structure and participation.
"I feel like we're moving in the right direction," said Derrick Lopez, the district's assistant superintendent for secondary schools. "It's not like we've gotten to these recommendations without a lot of conversation and disagreements. But I think we've gotten to the point right now where we want to make sure what's best for the kids participating in sports is what the recommendations will hold."

The aim is subject to personal opinion, but I'd say it isn't to improve the overall athletic program. Improvement and reform are close cousins. A booster group could make improvements. This is much more. This is more urgent.

Mr. Lopez feels that the moves are going in the right direction, but I don't. The talk might be buzzing around various directions -- some right and some wrong. But, the positive movement is yet to be seen by me. The low-hanging fruit for quick improvements has died on the vine this fall. Things are plugging along with each sport and each sport -- but -- the status quo is not the right direction. The system has been content to manage decline for years.

Good to see that there is mention of disagreements from Mr. Lopez. Those recomendations are not supported fully. Some are harmful in my not so humble opinion.

I've misplaced by decoder ring, so if anyone can filter the following quote, please do so in the comments: "But I think we've gotten to the point right now where we want to make sure what's best for the kids participating in sports is what the recommendations will hold."

But the recommendations regarding league structure would mark a drastic change to the look of high school sports in the area. Under the proposal, the City League -- also known as PIAA District 8 -- would join with the WPIAL, District 7 of the PIAA. Also, on a sport-to-sport basis, several former City League schools may co-op their athletic programs if participation numbers in a certain sport are too low.

"Right now, in looking at all of things we've gathered to this point, we are looking at what it would look like for the City League to dissolve and to merge with the WPIAL," assistant superintendent for secondary schools Derrick Lopez said.
When I first heard of the plan to consider joining the WPIAL, I was elated. Then my heart sank with the next suggestion of forming new coops, (or co-ops) among schools to form sports teams.

Coops are failing now in PPS in terms of sports participation. They stink. U-Prep is not getting its kids into sports teams as it should and could.

Citizen quote: It took the spirit away and killed it.

Well, to be sure, they (PPS) killed school spirit with a move of all the football games to Cupples Stadium on the South Side. They killed neighborhood spirit too. But, sports are still alive and not dead YET. PPS sports, on the whole, are sick, injured and in a deep slumber. The killing blow, however, could be sports coops.

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