Education Matters: Bring back after-school sports

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

I don't usually respond to letters written to this paper, but I'm going to make an exception here because it allows me to follow up on a suggestion I made in last week's column and comment further on a subject that has been simmering in my mind for years.

Vic Bedrossian, a highly respected and very involved parent in the Hoover High School community, disagreed with my suggestion that we dump football from our sports program, and also took umbrage at my bemoaning the lack of spirit at our school.

First of all, my perspective comes from working at the same place day in and day out for 30 years, not visiting it occasionally for the last four years. It also comes from the students, who complain annually about an indifferent, disengaged student body.

It's easy enough to dismiss the views of a stodgy, retiring teacher pining away for the old days, but that is simply not the case. I teach mostly advanced placement kids and they are the ones most active in the school's activities. Unfortunately, they constitute a shrinking core of spirited, involved students.

Yes indeed, our Pep Squad is still peppy, as is our drill team and our cheer leading squads, but they are in a distinct minority when considering the entire school's population. BGD (Beat Glendale Day), once upon a time, energized an entire student body and had Hoover's auditorium shaking at its foundations with cheering and yelling and competition between the grade levels. Now it is reduced to a "voluntary assembly" that involves only a small fraction of Hoover students.

Bedrossian is a Hoover High parent and is perhaps viewing the school through the rose-colored experience of his own children, who were/are spectacular additions to Hoover — I know because I taught two of them. However, I would still submit that they are a rare breed these days, as is the entire Bedrossian family, which is actively engaged in their children's schools.

The number of people at one football game, Hoover vs. Glendale, is the only game that is well attended all season. One look into the stands at all other home games reveals a smattering of supporters usually outnumbered by the members of the Hoover band.

I would agree that it is perhaps unfair to measure a school's spirit entirely by the fortunes of a single sport; but like it or not, football is, has been and likely will continue to be the signature sport in high schools across the nation.

"Do you mean to tell me that if we had a winning football team our student body would respond with more spirit, would be more connected to their school, would feel more pride in their school?" I ask my students year after year.

The answer is always an unequivocal, "Yes — even a competitive team would do the trick."

And sometimes it's followed with the brutal assessment: "It's hard to rally the troops when we are known each year for being the worst team in the league."

And perhaps it's not fair to judge the caliber of a team when its participants are less familiar with a sport that was not played in the country of their origin. That argument may have resonated 15 or 20 years ago, but it seems to be losing steam as Glendale becomes more settled and less transitional.

Nevertheless, it does bring up a subject that I alluded to earlier and that is near and dear to my heart: bringing back an after-school sports program to all elementary and junior high schools throughout the district. Teaching kids the fundamentals of football, baseball, basketball and track starting in the fourth grade; fostering a healthy spirit of competition among schools; getting parents involved early in their children's athletic endeavors; and finally, providing more of a level playing field for all of our youngsters who will go on to compete in high school — these are only some of the benefits that would accrue to our kids, our schools and our community.

My push to reinstate this in past years seems to have fallen on deaf ears, even though it would not cost the district much money to put it into place. I'm left to conclude that there is only one reason to oppose it: the supposed liability that would be incurred by the district.

The bean counters who watch over district finances were likely responsible for ending the program some years ago, and would no doubt still cite the monetary risk without factoring in the long-term, non-monetary gains.

As I wrote last week, it's a case of "penny wise and pound foolish."

DAN KIMBER is a former teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, where he has taught for more than 30 years. He may be reached at DKimb8@sbcglobal.net.

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