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Cutting School Sports Is Bad Idea

Rick Green

November 12, 2009

This is education reform that makes no sense: eliminating high school sports for city kids.

Is there a population of young males and females more in need of the discipline and motivation that high school athletics can bring?

We've got gangs and shootings while a city council member and staff spend thousands of dollars on travel junkets. There are bonuses for aides to the mayor and raises all around for teachers and administrators. There's just not enough money for high school athletics.

As my colleague Lori Riley wrote this past Sunday, it's over for the 16 boys who hoped to wrestle at Hartford Public High School this year. Tennis, golf, freshman volleyball and JV soccer were also cut.

I don't know whether to be angry or just depressed. Imagine the reaction if a suburban high school eliminated soccer. There's an obvious message all this sends, Tom Moore, principal at West Hartford's Conard High School, told me: You're not quite equal.

School district spokesman David Medina said there were painful cutbacks this year -including dozens of teachers. "You can't cut something like that and not affect people," he said.

The wrestling program costs $17,879 annually, which figures to a little more than $1,000 per kid. That's expensive, but what's the cost of a kid who drops out and never has a decent job?

"You talk about No Child Left Behind. You are leaving 16 kids behind. A lot of the kids I've dealt with are in gangs, involved in drugs, that's all they know," said Paul Meyers, the now former wrestling coach who has offered to work for free if the program is restored. "A lot of it is just about gaining life skills. They don't understand responsibility outside of themselves."

Through the years, Meyers said, a dozen or so of his Hartford Public wrestlers have landed prep school scholarships.

There's a more fundamental reason to push athletics, Steve Perry, a longtime urban educator and consultant to CNN, told me.

"We have a pretty fat population," said Perry, who is also the principal of Capital Prep, a city magnet school at which students are required to play two sports. "Our children need to participate in lifelong fitness."

If you're a city kid, that's not always so easy.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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