Sports

Federal Way won't be first pay-to-play district

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

The Federal Way Public Schools’ proposal to raise $445,000 by charging middle and high school student-athletes a fee to play sports is not a new phenomenon.

“Our priority is to keep all of our programs intact,” said Mark Davidson, assistant superintendent for the Federal Way school district. “I feel it’s important to have some options for them to be involved.”

Districts such as Peninsula, White River and Enumclaw have had programs implemented for a number of years where fees have been charged. But those situations were a little bit different from Federal Way’s. Those districts enacted pay-to-play because of multiple building and operation levy failures.

The Peninsula School District, which includes Gig Harbor and Peninsula high schools, has charged fees for sports since the 1995-96 school year, according to the Peninsula School District Deputy Superintendent Marcia Harris.

“Back then we had no levy money,” she said. “That was a very, very tough time.”

So tough, the Peninsula School District had to drop all middle school athletic programs and charged students $200 per sport to compete at the high-school level. Since that time, the fee has been reduced almost every year because of the passage of levies. But students are still paying $70 per sport in high school. Middle school athletics have since been reinstated and district officials are charging $15 per sport.

“(In 1995) there was a lot of discussion about that in the community,” said Harris. “We set up a program to manage it for the students and we worked with the booster clubs and they really stepped up to the plate and donated a lot of money. The community donated a lot of money.”

But fund-raising isn’t something Federal Way High School athletic director Doug Patrick thinks should be a part of high school athletics.

“It is a sad statement that we have to have fundraisers,” Patrick said. “I don’t believe (high school sports) are extra-curricular activities. I think they are co-curricular. Our job is to educate youngsters. They learn in the classroom and they can also learn on the court.”

“It definitely affects your developmental programs,” said Jim Meyerhoff, assistant executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, the governing body of high school sports in the state.

Meyerhoff defines developmental programs as middle-school, C-team and junior varsity athletes that aren’t vying for college scholarships yet, but just enjoy the lifestyle sports offers.

“Varsity players will find a way to get the money needed to play,” he said. “The non-varsity sports are the ones that get hurt.”

In a day where more and more athletes are specializing in one sport, the pay-to-play possibility should make that even more prevalent in Federal Way, according to Meyerhoff.

Parents, students and coaches, in recent years, have pushed athletes to concentrate on one sport and play it year-round. Their thought is playing just one sport will give them a better shot at securing the rare college scholarship, he said.

“The multi-sport athlete is just picking one,” Meyerhoff said.

Pay-to-play districts have also had some problems with aggressive parents who feel that because they are paying for their child to participate, that they have the right to control when their child plays in a game.

Also affected will be the athlete that turns out for no-cut sports such as track or cross country just to have a little fun time with their friends, while staying in shape.

“I think it is going to impact a ton of kids,” said Bob France, assistant athletic director at Federal Way High School. “The kids that are turning out just for fun, those are the ones we are going to lose.”

“I am very against pay-to-play,” said Decatur High School fastpitch coach Pete Waid, who is a retired airline pilot that coaches the Gators as more of a hobby. “A lot of these kids will just go home and play video games because most households have to have both parents working to exist.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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