Enquirer Herald

Charging kids to play not the way to go

Some schools around the Upstate are charging kids to play high school sports.

Reasons given for the fee usually point to the severe financial crunch brought about by soaring gas prices, causing some school districts to place the burden on the parents of aspiring athletes.

"There are some high schools that are charging kids to play because of transportation costs," noted Clover High School athletic director Carroll Hester. "It all goes back to the price of gas. They're doing it to make up for the extra charge."

Said Hester of the growing issue, "We do not want to do that. I hope it never reaches that point here."

York Comprehensive High AD Steve Boyd, who once coached high school football alongside Hester, shares the sentiments expressed by his friend on the other side of Filbert.

"We want more kids playing athletics," Boyd said. "Charging them to play would reduce the number.

"There are families that can't afford to pay for their kids to play."

Boyd and Hester point to the values of athletic participation -- the development of sportsmanship, character and leadership skills.

"We feel athletic participation makes kids better students," observed Boyd.

Instead of charging kids to play, Boyd prefers other alternatives such as fund-raisers and booster club proceeds.

Gate receipts from Thursday's Bank of York Preseason Kickoff at Pratt Field will be used to supplement transportation costs.

Also, more York coaches are becoming certified school bus drivers.

Said Boyd, "Our coaches can drive the team buses and we won't have to pay a bus driver $12 to $20 an hour."

Hester said Clover, too, will continue alternative measures rather than charge kids to play.

"We will continue to survive on gate receipts," assured Hester. "We have a great fan base and our school district supports athletics.

"We also have great booster club support."

Coaches Shea Hall of Clover and Paula Blackwell of York are glad positions are being taken to negate a policy that would require student-athletes to pay a fee to play high school sports.

Hall, who coaches girls' volleyball at Clover High, said she supports the position taken by the CHS athletic department and will continue to take cost-saving measures. "I would definitely be against charging kids to play," noted Hall.

Blackwell, the head girls' basketball coach at YCHS, said team trips will be limited during the coming season.

"We've played in holiday tournaments at Myrtle Beach in the past," she said. "We'll play in a local tournament this year."

Blackwell said the coaches at YCHS will do their part to help cut costs.

"With a new school to be built and more equipment needed, there's even a greater need for cost-saving measures," she said.

It is gratifying to see the Clover and York ADs keeping a handle on spending and flat-out rejecting the idea of charging kids to play sports.

If anyone is aware of the financial crunch impacting high school athletic departments and willing to do something about it, it's Boyd and Hester. All one has to do is look at the success of Super Saturday last spring.