Remember being a kid and your Dad always telling you “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? Boston Public School student-athletes know the meaning of this saying all too well. Practicing on dirt and rocks, running laps in a cloud of dust and carrying our practice equipment from our locker room to our makeshift practice football field a couple of blocks away are some of the hardships we endured due to a lack of adequate funding.
The Perils of BPS Players
Four years of football at the Boston Latin School makes me truly appreciate the tough circumstances Boston Public high school student-athletes put up with. Doing up-downs and hitting drills on the converted football practice field of dry, dusty dirt and rocks that seemed to cut your knee or elbow every time you made a play. The amount of times you rolled your ankle due to divots were countless. Those are the tolls you pay while playing the game, everyone pays a price.
I remember those fourth quarter games against Bedford, Matignon and Newton-South where players on the sidelines, including myself, would remind our teammates about that practice field. Back in August, all the hours we put in, all the pain, the blood and sweat we put out on our practice field, that was the time to remember everything and put it into the guy in front of you. We weren't like the suburban kids in the Dual-County League, we were the city kids, we were tougher than them and we had just enough of a chip on our shoulder to want to prove it. I'll never forget those glory days and I'll never regret any of it, for me, it was perfect.
Use The Funding Effectively
The issue that Boston Public High Schools are facing now is the same problem that we faced when we played in the MIAA (Massachusettes Interscholastic Athletic Association). Boston Public Schools don't have enough funding flowing into their athletic departments, resulting in poor practice fields, lack of equipment and inadequate medical facilities which endanger the student-athletes safety. It's not as if the money isn't there, Boston Public Schools aren't using the money they have effectively for their athletic departments.
Bob Hohler of The Boston Globe wrote about these high school student-athletes and their Missed opportunities yesterday and followed that up today with part 2 of his Failing our athletes story. Mr. Hohler exposes the truths of Boston Public Schools athletics. Hohler goes on to state the facts about the funding in the Boston Public Schools system:
The first measure of failure is financial. City leaders allocated just under $4 million this year for athletics, less than one-half percent of the total budget of $833 million. That’s far less than the statewide average of 3 to 4 percent, according to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. The national average is 1 to 3 percent, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Boston dedicates a smaller percentage of its school budget to athletics than neighboring cities such as Cambridge and Somerville and similarly sized urban centers, including San Francisco and Atlanta. Boston’s athletic budget has not increased in more than six years.
It doesn't come down to not having the money to support our student-athletes, it's that the means provided for them are not adequate enough. If Boston Public Schools adhered to the statewide average it would provide nearly $30 million for Boston Public Schools athletic departments. Student-athletes are practicing in alley ways with broken glass, yet $26 million from the athletic budget has gone elsewhere.
The Future Of The Student-Athlete
Athletes play for a few select reasons at the high school level; the glory of winning, the competition, the fun of the game and the ability to pursue the next level of competition in the college ranks. I didn't think much into it when no player on the 2002 Boston Latin Wolfpack received an athletic scholarship to a Division I school, I figured none of us were good enough. I also didn't think into it when I was the only player on the team to immediately play in college the following year, I figured no one else had the desire to. In Hohler's article, a sad realization set in:
With Boston largely considered a wasteland by college recruiters, only two of the city’s 3,500 graduating seniors - a distance runner at Charlestown and a boys basketball player at English - received full Division 1 college athletic scholarships, though English catcher Nelfi Zapata was the first Massachusetts high school player selected in this year’s Major League Baseball draft, in the 19th round by the New York Mets.
There were no recruiters calling any of the players on our team. It wasn't because no one had the drive to continue on at the next level, the lack of funding provided to Boston Public School athletics resulted in smaller teams with lesser talent, forcing scouts to look elsewhere without giving anyone in the area a chance. What is this saying to our high school students today? Having a dream crushed because you don't make the cut yourself is one thing, but having that same dream shattered because the city is cheap, shows that the system really doesn't care about our kids and their futures. Some of these local student-athletes will not have the opportunity to attend college without the proper assistance, such as an athletic scholarship paired with financial aid. Why do you think children attend public school? A lack of finances in the home added to a lack of spending by the school is ruining lives before they have a chance to get started.
After reading Hohler's first article, It wasn't until I reached the bottom that the realization that Boston Latin didn't have it so bad, hit me:
"The city treats the big three exam schools like real schools,'' Robinson said. “They get special privileges. It’s a shame the rest of the schools aren’t treated that way.’’
Latin’s McDonough could do little more than express sympathy.
“I know what some of my peers have to deal with to make ends meet,’’ he said. “It’s extremely difficult for them. I wish it could be better. Unfortunately, it’s not right now.’’
Bob Hohler talked to the AD/Head Football Coach John McDonough to get his take on the situation as well. “I know people want to be optimistic, but if you look at the situation and think about whether the glass is half-full or half-empty, I want to say, ‘It’s half-empty. Fill the damn thing, would you?’ ’’ Regardless of his rough edges, Coach Mac is a great guy and knows what he's talking about, the kind of man that doesn't open his mouth to speak before thinking about what he's going to say.
The rest of the Boston Public School system has it even worse from the lack of funding leading to minimal athletics to choose from, poor facilities, no facilities, lack of equipment to field enough players all the way to not having enough players to field the team. This sad realization makes me wish I could help. Beyond the money, BPS need to lower their standards on coaching if that's an issue. Volunteer coaches can run a dime a dozen and background checks can ensure the children's safety. Heck, I'd jump at the opportunity to coach High School Football at the drop of a hat. BPS however can not hire a coach unless that person is also a certified teacher in the BPS system.
Even on twitter there was some feedback from @bloomtoperish about the situation, stating, "It's just amazing to me that a sports city like Boston has let their schools' sports programs become so dire."
Do you have any suggestions? Please leave your ideas in the comment section and get involved trying to make a better athletic future for our student-athletes in Boston.
Thanks to heraldpost for the Football Camp picture.