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In The News Online Extra - October 2011

Duval County has high school sports—for now 

By Colin Likas

After months of fundraising and receiving donations, Duval County (Florida) High School’s athletics program has some certainties, but many lingering questions as well.

After Duval’s school board ordered that $791,000 in sports-related expenses be dropped from the school’s 2011-12 budget, athletes, parents and even nonprofit organizations in the Florida county looked for ways to keep the athletic program alive.

So far, approximately $188,000 has been raised, and cross country and golf will go on at Duval schools this year. Yet there is still work to be done if the school intends to reach $236,000, which is the amount needed for lacrosse, wrestling, slow-pitch softball, tennis and junior varsity soccer to take place this year.

District Athletic Director John Fox asked for help from nonprofit organizations this year, and the organizations have created funds within existing accounts to accept donations for the sports. However, Fox does not feel that he can go back to the same groups next year, when more money is needed.

Several groups have reached out. Among them were the North Florida Chapter of the Professional Golfers’ Association, the Lighthouse Lacrosse Foundation, the Terry Parker High School Alumni Fund, the First Coast Tennis Foundation and 1st Place Sports.

Fox would like to enforce a pay-to-play system, but he is unsure of the success of such a system in an urban district with a higher poverty rate than most suburban districts.

The fundraising focus is currently on this year’s athletics, however, and it was made a little easier due to the elimination of after-school activity bus routes, supplements for some assistant coaches and some security costs.

Parent organizations for some of the high school teams have also collected donations. Together with the nonprofits, $208,000 has been raised, $20,000 of which has been set aside as aid for next year.

Organizations which had early success with the fundraisers are planning to send extra money to the district to help with other sports.

Tampa Bay’s homeschooled athletes get in the game

By Colin Likas

Any member of the Tampa Bay Homeschool Education and Activities Team (HEAT) that is looking for a future in athletics recently received a big boost.

Effective with the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, the Tampa Bay HEAT has officially joined Florida’s official interscholastic athletic organization, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA). One of four homeschool teams in the association, the HEAT will now take part in more events while facing better competition and a tougher level of play.

“It will help us grow,” sixteen-year-old Savannah Fredrickson, a volleyball player aspiring to play in college, said.

According to FHSAA Membership Specialist Seth Polansky, Florida was the first state in the National Federation of State High School Associations to accept homeschool teams.

Inclusion into the FHSAA will allow the HEAT to schedule competitions more easily. It also allows homeschoolers another option, aside from club sports or local public high school teams, to play the sport they desire.

Teresa Manganello, the president of the Tampa Bay HEAT, said she hopes the HEAT’s acceptance into the FHSAA will draw more homeschoolers to the association from around the Tampa Bay area. The HEAT currently includes approximately 120 families.

“We had talented homeschool athletes who wanted to compete at a high level and who have aspirations to play in college,” Manganello said.

According to Manganello, the HEAT’s acceptance into the FHSAA allows players to stay in a more familiar environment with teammates they may already know.

However, the path to a spot in the FHSAA was not paved in gold for Manganello and the HEAT.

Covering the cost of a mandated insurance policy, in case of an accident, was the most formidable obstacle facing the HEAT. The program will also have to serve a provisional two-year term while its leaders learn the FHSAA’s rules.

In coordination with the FHSAA’s eligibility requirements, the HEAT will also have to maintain records of student-athletes’ grade-point averages and ages.

Another absolute necessity for the HEAT, as for any athletic team, will be finding facilities where its teams can hold practices and contests. The HEAT’s squads have never had a true home-field advantage, as they have always had to rent or ask for donated space.

In addition to volleyball, the HEAT also plans on competing in basketball and swimming this season and hopes to put together teams for soccer, golf and tennis in the near future.

Youth-sports telecasts on NCAA’s table 

By Colin Likas

The NCAA hosted a meeting involving its officials as well as representatives of some conference and institutional broadcast networks on August 22 with the intention of learning about ever-changing networks and broadcast technologies.

Officials specifically hoped to understand the relation of such networks and technologies to the broadcasting of youth-sports programming on those networks.

Two individuals present at the meeting were Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs, and Burke Magnus, senior vice president of college sports programming at ESPN.

According to Lennon, the session met its goals.

“This is the start of an educational process that will lead to a final policy decision on this issue by the presidents,” Lennon said. “We want them to make the best possible decision based on data.”

Burke attempted to make that decision easier by discussing public desire for youth-sports programming, as well as changes in technology lowering production costs and making broadcasts of such events much more likely.

“This was a really valuable and critically important conversation about a very complex set of issues,” Magnus said. “We appreciated very much being included and offer our continued participation as these issues evolve.”

Another topic of the session was the interpretation sanctioned by the Division I Board of Directors in early August, which precludes institution- or conference-branded networks from broadcasting programming involving prospective athletes.

The NCAA is currently monitoring the high school sports coverage of the Longhorn Network at the University of Texas. The network is being reviewed to see if it has or is going outside of the guidelines for acceptable content, which limits such content to scores, statistics, standings and news video used to report the three details.

The meeting was the first of what may be several over a six- to nine-month examination process. A white paper is likely to be created based on feedback from those at the meeting(s) as well as from the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the Leadership Council.

The presidents currently sitting on the Board of Directors will make any announcements with regard to the decisions made on youth-sports programming on institution- or conference-branded networks.

Also contributing to the meeting were three members of the National Federation of State High School Associations: Chuck Schmidt, a member of the 2008-11 NFHS Strategic Planning Committee and the chief operating officer of the Arizona Interscholastic Association; Julian Tackett, chair of the NFHS Football Rules Committee and the commissioner of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association; and Jim Tenopir, the NFHS Chief Operating Officer.

Colin Likas is a fall intern in the NFHS Publications/Communications Department. He is a sophomore at Butler (Indiana) University, majoring in journalism.

Arizona to require concussion education for student-athletes 

By Shane Monaghan

Through the implementation of the interactive online site “Brainbook,” Arizona has become the first state in the nation to require that all student-athletes complete concussion education. Student-athletes must pass a formal test to become eligible for play through this new program specifically geared toward them.

“There are approximately three million sports-related concussions nationally each year,” said Javier Cardenas, neurologist at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. “Players recognizing the signs and symptoms of concussion can prevent death and disability.”

Through Barrow’s efforts, along with those of the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) and the Arizona Cardinals, Brainbook has been put into effect.

“[It] is an E-learning tool that is interactive,” says Cardenas.

Brainbook, a word play on the popular social media Web site Facebook, is an interactive online site created by Barrow and Arizona State University. Brainbook has the look of a social media site in which the student-athletes are taken through a series of educational content including activities and videos from professional athletes, physicians and their peers. The module takes approximately 30 minutes to complete, during which time students are required to pass a formal exam with at least an 80-percent accuracy to compete in their sport. Brainbook is currently being beta-tested in two Arizona high schools to receive positive feedback from the experience.

“The AIA recognizes the seriousness of this debilitating brain injury and is proud to be taking the lead in changing the way athletes are educated about traumatic brain injuries associated in sports,” said Harold Slemmer, executive director of the AIA.

“One of the worst things you can do is to return to play too soon before you’ve recovered from your concussion,” Cardensas said. “That’s when those rare cases of death occur.”

Along with the AIA and the Arizona Cardinals, Cardenas and the Barrow Neurological Institute hope the program becomes a model for other states to follow in years to come.

“This is concussion awareness,” Cardenas said. “This is concussion education.”

Shane Monaghan is a fall intern in the NFHS Publications/Communications and Events Departments. Monaghan is a graduate of Ball State (Indiana) University, where he specialized in sports administration.

Study Shows Multi-Sport Athletes are Less Likely to get Hurt 

By Eamonn Reynolds

A study by Dr. Neeru Jayanthi of the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine indicates that kids who participate in multiple sports as opposed to specializing in only one are less susceptible to injury during their young athletic careers. These findings are based off of the conclusion that kids become more conditioned for other movements by engaging in the various training methods of different sports.

After initial research done on 529 junior tennis players found that those who competed only in tennis had a better chance of getting injured, Jayanthi and his team examined 154 new, young athletes around the age of 13 in a variety of sports. Eighty-five of the participants needed therapy for a sports injury, while 69 simply needed sports physicals. They then categorized each athlete based on their level of sport specialization, focusing on factors such as amount of training in one sport, whether or not they had given up other sports to concentrate on one and how many months they train or compete a year in one sport.

The results of the study proved to be consistent with Jayanthi’s hypothesis, revealing that 60.4 percent of the athletes who had been injured were a part of the specialized category, compared to the 31.3 percent who came for physicals. The injured group averaged 11 hours of participation in sports a week, while the uninjured group averaged only nine hours. Jayanthi recorded that more highly specialized sports such as tennis, gymnastics and dance were linked to more serious injuries.

Answers as to why these injuries actually occur deal with factors such as repetitive use of the same muscle group and stressors to growing areas, as well as exposure risk, according to Jayanthi. His team, with cooperation from the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chiacgo, plans to enroll more athletes in follow-up research, evaluating them every six months for three years. This plan will help provide analysis about how training can affect a young athlete’s body during growth spurts.


Florida, North Carolina Among States to Give Money Back to Schools 

By Eamonn Reynolds

As tough economic times continue to challenge high schools across the country, two state athletic associations are making efforts to provide financial support for their member schools.

               The boards of directors from both the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) recently approved respective policies to aid schools suffering from financial stress.

               A new policy in Florida will allow the FHSAA to reduce member schools’ membership fees by up to 50 percent for the 2011-12 school year, which will equate to an estimated $215,000 in savings for its member schools. In addition, the FHSAA will increase the ticket prices at the district, regional and state tournament level by $1 per ticket, for an estimated increase of $800,000 in overall revenue. Approximately $600,000 of that money will stay with the schools hosting postseason events, and approximately $200,000 of it going to the FHSAA.

               Similarly, the NCHSAA Board of Directors voted to make a one-time payment of $1,000 to each member school for the current academic year. The board also voted that for the next four years, 25 percent of the dollar surcharge on tickets designed to go to the NCHSAA endowment fund will instead be directed to its member schools. Spokesman Rick Strunk added that the NCHSAA is also working with PlayOn Sports, a company that can help schools stream games live if they wish, and perhaps use it as a revenue stream.


Massachusetts High School Proposes Naming Game for New Stadium 

By Eamonn Reynolds

Gloucester (Massachusetts) High School’s aging stadium is hoping to get a makeover as city officials have decided to raise funds for a renewal project by offering naming rights for the stadium.

According to the Gloucester Daily Times, Mayor Carolyn Kirk is seeking proposals for naming rights to the stadium that currently needs $3.5 million in repairs. A study by Gale Associates Inc. found that the stadium’s field was too narrow for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) standards for soccer, the track was 40 yards shorter than average and needs repairs and the visitors’ side of the bleachers had been condemned.

Kirk has proposed selling naming rights to the stadium for $500,000. She said any new name must include the current name of the facility, Newell Stadium, named after a local naval officer who was killed in World War I.

The selling of naming rights for stadiums in high school sports is relatively new. In 2004, Tyler, Texas, sold the naming rights to Rose Stadium to a hospital, and it became Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium for a $1.92 million sponsorship set up over 12 years. In 2005, the Sumner (Washington) School District changed the name of Sumner Stadium, the football stadium for Bonney Lake and Sumner high schools, to Sunset Chevy Stadium in a $500,000, 14-year deal with a local car dealer. Similarly, Noblesville, Indiana, changed the name of Hare Chevrolet Field for $125,000.


Idaho School District Adopts Pay-to-Play Policy 

By Eamonn Reynolds

Budget issues across the country have forced many school districts to introduce “pay-to-play” initiatives, including Meridian (Idaho) School District, the largest district in the state.

The district announced the change August 8 on its Web site, emphasizing that the fees for middle school and high school athletics and activities will be used to cover the salaries for staff who are in charge of the extracurricular programs. However, other costs for referees and equipment will be paid for by gate receipts or fundraising, the district said.

“It’s safe to say there are more schools nowadays asking parents or students to pay a participation fee than there has ever been before,” Idaho High School Activities Association Executive Director John Billetz said.

The rise in participation fees in school districts around the state has not been calculated, but Billetz said that they are becoming more common. According to Billetz, Meridian is trying to reduce its budget by $22.9 million after voters in the district rejected a two-year, $18.5 million levy proposal in May.

In contrast, the Boise School District will not be seeking participation fees this year, according to Matt Kobe, director of the 25,000-student district. However, school officials have proposed a supplemental levy of $15 to $17 million in March, and participation fees are still being considered.

Billetz said he was unhappy to see more districts taking the “pay-to-play” approach, but made it clear he does not see an alternative.

“We hate to see schools do it, we hate to see kids have to pay additional costs for activities, but I guess that’s the reality of the times we’re living in with the economy as bad as it is,” Billetz said. “We’re in a different day and age now.”

Billetz added that schools often find a way to help kids who do not have the money for activity fees, and said in the Post Falls District, the Kiwanis and Rotary Club paid into a scholarship fund for that very purpose.

“I can safely say no kid at Post Falls was ever denied participation due to paying an activity fee or participation cost,” Billetz said. “I’d be very surprised if districts haven’t found a way to help offset the cost for those who can’t afford it.”

Wayne, New Jersey Schools Eliminate Pay-to-Play Fees

By Eamonn Reynolds

As the debate regarding students and families having to “pay-to-play” for high school athletics trudges on, Wayne Public Schools in Wayne, New Jersey, are among the school boards not requiring kids to pay a fee to participate in high school sports and activities.

According to school officials, the fees charged to students who wanted to participate in extracurricular activities were eliminated because too much time was spent collecting, processing and accounting the fees compared with the amount of money that actually was collected.

Trustees anticipated collecting about $200,000 each year, but fell short with only $90,000 collected during the 2010-11 school year, said trustee Robert Ceberio, chairman of the board’s finance committee.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time when we needed to cut millions of dollars,” Ceberio said. “Now that the board is in a much more stable financial situation, we decided to just eliminate it.”

The charges included an annual fee of $100 for student-athletes and a $75 fee for students who joined clubs, according to district Business Administrator Juanita Petty. Ceberio said that the money was never used exclusively to support the clubs or teams, but rather it was placed into the district’s general accounts.

After state aid to schools was cut in 2010, Wayne lost $6.6 million in aid, while trustees also cut 147 jobs and charged high school seniors $50 to park their cars. The parking fees are still in place.

School Board President Don Pavlak Jr. said the board should not reconsider charging fees for sports and clubs in the future.

Eamonn Reynolds was the summer intern in the NFHS Publications/Communications Department and is a senior at Ohio University majoring in journalism and public relations. 

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