Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Eagle, school newspaper article by Erik Rauterkus about sports in Pittsburgh Public Schools

The Eagle

Pittsburgh Public Schools Mulling Possible Merger With WPIAL—Does This Makes Sense for PPS Student-Athletes?


Anonymous said...

Part 1: Written by Erik Rauterkus

Recently, Pittsburgh Public Schools Interscholastic Athletics has received a bit of notoriety for crossing the threshold from rumor into reality in discussing a possible merger with local suburban schools in western Pennsylvania, known as the WPIAL. Ask anyone who knows high school sports, its history and the current state of affairs, and you will undoubtedly get an earful as to how this merger would go. Simply put, most think that it would take quite a long time until PPS could compete. Yet, at the present time, there is a great deal that needs to be reformed in the district if the level of play and participation is to improve.

The Pittsburgh Public Schools are referred to as District 8 within the PIAA. District 8 consists of 13 schools that range in size. The largest school in the district is Taylor Allderdice with an enrollment of 1, 192 students and that means it technically would compete at the highest classification for every sport that they participate in. The smallest school in the district is Westinghouse with an enrollment at 362. Within the state’s way of thinking, Allderdice’s classification is AAAA for football while Westinghouse’s classification in football is AA
Our own school is going through many changes, however. The total enrollment at Schenley is 219 and the Obama side consists of 258 according to the last report from the PIAA. Schenley sports, however, with a total enrollment of just below 500, competes in AAA and AAAA classifications for state playoffs ,right next to Allderdice, an amazing fact, as we are less than half their size.

The way sports have been run in the city schools in the past is something that many be consider to be unfair. The balance of competition that is needed to create an environment of excellent competition has not been created because Westinghouse is forced to compete against Allderdice, even though their enrollment is about 1/4th that of such a school. But throughout every other district in the PIAA, schools of the same size compete and the competition is great. The WPIAL, right in our own back yard, is considered one of the best districts in the state and have teams that are always competing for the state title in most sports.

Sadly, this can not be said for the city sports. It is rare, if not nearly unheard of, for a city team to make it by the first round of states or even make it out of the city. Schenley’s girls soccer team has won the city championships each of the last four years, but has not been even close to making it out of the first round of the state playoffs. The same goes for almost every other sport in the city.


Anonymous said...

part 2:

Something in city sports is not right. It is not that the city doesn’t have the talent; we probably have more than most other places. It is not that the city school kids are unwilling to work for something. Trust me, city kids know how to work. So what’s wrong? That’s what the Pittsburgh Public Schools are working on. They have hosted a series of public meetings to discuss the future of city sports ,with the WPIAL merger as the primary topic. There is a belief that it is necessary for the city sports to join WPIAL and one idea is through co-ops.

Co-ops would be the merger between certain schools in the area of sports. The idea of this is to increase competition level with bigger populations of students competing together. We already know of a co-op between our school, Sci-Tech and University Prep. One of the proposals on the table is making more co-ops throughout the city and joining the WPIAL.

Will this work?

All I know is that I can guarantee that if the city school sports do not make serious changes within the way they compete and think about sports, nothing will change. They will remain just as dismal as they have ever been.
The number one thing the city sports commission needs to understand is that if they do things the way we have been NOTHING will change.

This begins with the co-ops: they have not worked .What has happened with us is that Schenley, Obama, Sci-Tech, and U- Prep have all combined their numbers to make the school look like they are a big AAA or AAAA school. However, when you get on the playing field you can look around the Schenley Spartans bench and there will be few if any Sci-Tech or U Prep kids. In certain sports there might be more than others but in most of our best sports; swimming, soccer, volleyball, there are minimal numbers of Sci Tech kids. So how is this amalgamation of schools doing anything more than just providing the PIAA student enrollment numbers? It certainly isn’t beginning to describe the numbers on the teams themselves.

If the city schools decide to continue with the same co-op plan that they have been implementing; nothing will change. If they combine Schenley/Obama with Westinghouse, or Oliver we will receive a classification that we do not deserve. This may mean Obama having to compete against major WPIAL schools like North Allegheny instead of who we should be competing against. If the city schools keep these co-ops the way they have been, where it makes a school look like a AAAA program when in fact it is a AA school, there will be no chance for them to succeed.

The next major issue with sports reform in the city comes along with coaching. A coach commented, “Many coaches are just collecting the money.” This is a serious problem within city sports as it is anywhere else; overall, the coaching has been sub par. One of the problems is that the city first looks to hire within the district. I believe the city sports needs to look for the right people for the job. The city needs to acquire and retain the great coaches that will better our sports programs. I think this is one of the most important aspects of sports reform in the city; we need better coaches who are willing to work harder and longer then the athletes. It can’t judge be an additional payday.

Overall it is important that the Pittsburgh Public Schools undertake major sports reform. There is no way that the city sports can remain the same; it is an embarrassment. But the city must look outside of the box and truly change and reform city sports. Changes that do nothing and allow athletics to stagnate does nothing for the student-athlete or for those committed to improving city school athletics.

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