Proposed Cuts Could Kill High School Sports Program


October 13, 1991|By Pat O'Malley

I'm very worried, and all of you parents and student-athletes ought to be as well.

What Steve Carroll and Jerry Mears, two men no longer with us, worked so hard for could go right down the drain if the proposed cuts relating to high school sports become reality.

It's been recommended that coaches' salaries for winter and spring sports be rescinded and no transportation for high school athletic teams provided. That virtually would terminate the high school sportsprogram.

And that would be a travesty not only to athletics but to education as well. Despite the inane thinking of some of this new breed in education, athletics are an integral part of education.

Whether the intellectual types want to admit it or not, more can be learned about life on the athletic field than in any classroom. The two,academics and athletics, go hand in hand, and that's why these recommendations are preposterous.

Nearly 22 years ago, Carroll, then a coach and athletic director at Arundel High, led the statewide fight for coaches' salaries. The Arundel legend, who died in 1985, coached 21 years without ever getting paid a penny.

Carroll became president of the Coaches Association in 1968 and dedicated himself to gaining pay for the coaches.

It was in November of 1969 that Carroll ledthe coaches in a "stop coaching" measure that couldn't be labeled a strike because in Carroll's words back then, "It wasn't a strike because we weren't getting paid. We just refused to give our services andtwo weeks after, we won our fight and had the checks in our hands." (Arundel Living, March 11, 1979).

His lobbying for coaches' salaries impressed then-County Executive Joe Alton and five County Council members who pushed the measure through. Carroll became a statewide spokesman and lobbyist for other coaches and led the counties of PrinceGeorges, Howard and Frederick in paying coaches' salaries.

Carroll's work was carried on by former Arundel and Meade football coach/athletic director Jerry Mears, who died in November of 1988. Mears helped lead a movement during the late '70s to improve coaches' salaries and establish a scale.

All that goes right out the window with such a backward step as cutting coaches' salaries.

Most coaches don'tcoach for the money, but to take it away once could mean doing it again and again, and that's not really fair. Asking coaches to work fornothing only increases the possibility of an influx of so-called "emergency coaches."

Emergency coaches come cheap -- free, and for now fill a void, but to use them extensively would only reduce an excellent high school program to the recreation sports level.

And believe me, that is the last thing we want.

Telling the coaches they will not get paid, and then telling them no transportation will be provided by the Board of Education only fuels the problem.

A way to get around it would be to have the coaches coach voluntarily and the parents pay for the players' bus. But is that a fair solution?

Certainly not!

And then, who pays for the officials to work the games? Are we going to hit up the parents for the umpire and referee fees, or are we going to ask the official to work for nothing?

Even in intramural recreation programs, officials get paid. What kind of officiating would we get with volunteers? A parent strapping on a mask and shin guards or standing behind the pitcher's mound or stringing a whistle around his neck to run up and down the basketball court?

Through all of this, think what no program or a downgraded one does for the youngsters. While the majority of them are not going to earn college scholarships, some will and the others deserve the chance to chasethe dream.

And for some, just the chance to play college sports because they played well enough at the high school level is sufficient. That chance would be eliminated.

What about the educational aspects of athletics?

That is a point too many of our education leaders and authorities miss. The statement that a coach is an educator, fortunately, can be said of most of our county coaches.

Too many officials at the state level, both in government and education, don't appreciate or respect the values of athletics in relation to the academic process.

I consider it an integral part of education, because many of those who play sports learn time management, the values of competition, how to get along with people of all walks of life, discipline and self-esteem.

Life is winning and losing, handling the ups and downs, the highlights with the setbacks, and those lessons are taught on the athletic field and not in a classroom.

"You will find that those involved in extracurricular activities end up more successful in life than the kid sitting in a corner with a computer all day,"said Arundel athletic director Bernie Walter.

It's because of having to meet an academic requirement to participate in extracurricularactivities that scores of students in high schools succeed and become better and more serious students.

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