Most of us know from personal experience that challenges are ever-present in high school. In addition to coursework, students worry about getting into college, staying healthy, and controlling their stress.
Like music and the arts, sports provide our students with a necessary outlet to conquer these challenges. And perhaps most important, they allow students to build character—an intangible skill that can’t be directly gleaned from academic curriculum and standardized tests.
By charging participation fees for students not registered for free or reduced-priced lunch, we are erecting another barrier before those students who, like me, might prefer the pen to the pentathlon. We should be doing the opposite.
Of course, some students wouldn’t play sports if you paid them to. And many other students will play sports even if you charge them higher fees. But Fairfax County Public Schools should always ensure it’s giving students the chance to try something new without a down payment.
Although the VHSL has not yet posted participation numbers for 2010-2011, anecdotal evidence I have gleaned from Student Activity Directors indicates that students from economically-challenged households who might otherwise participate aren’t doing so. After all, nobody likes to ask for a handout.
If in the coming budget cycle we cannot find money to abolish these fees, we must find creative ways to fund them, such as by creating corporate sponsorships for our stadiums and teams that are separate from booster sponsorship programs. After all, many of our students have played on community teams and in stadiums that have been sponsored by local businesses. In such a business-rich county with a limited number of secondary and high schools, I have no doubt that the demand for such corporate exposure would be high.
Our School Board must work with our booster programs and activities directors to find a solution that provides opportunities to both our students and our communities. And it must do so in a manner that ensures students in less affluent parts of the county have the same athletic opportunities given to students elsewhere.
As a former student athlete and hopefully your next at-large school board member, I will work to eliminate these fees so that we don’t continue leaving some of our students on the sidelines.