Empire Editorial: The ban that went too far

Editor's note, 11:20 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 19: Originally, Juneau Empire sources stated cross-town travel would be included in the middle school sports travel ban. Since the publication of this editorial, information has been clarified surrounding this issue. The official stance from the Juneau School District: at this time out of town middle school sports travel will not be allowed beginning on June 1, 2014, regardless of where funding comes from to support the travel. According to Floyd Dryden Principal Tom Milliron, FD will be "happy" to organize cross-town travel for sports teams this year and once the ban goes into effect. From Molly Yerkes, principal at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School, cross-town travel will happen this year, but four less times, due budget concerns. 

••• Updated text below •••

Did you know? Middle school sports teams in the Juneau School District, even before the out-of-town travel ban goes into effect, will take fewer across town trips for competitions. Some athletes won't be allowed to travel at all, depending on which team they participate on.

We think that seems a little silly. According to coaches and administrators, is costs less than $100 to bus the athletes. 

But the school district said they have reasons, good ones, which apparently surround the lack of funds, as noted at the recent school board meeting.

We appreciate that the school board works hard to be fiscally responsible, and we recognize that these are tough decisions to make. Still, in this instance, we scratch our heads. The new ban doesn’t allow out-fo-town sports travel of any kind, regardless of where the funds come from.

At this point, the questions surpass any answers. Is it really a budget issue, or is there something being swept under the rug? It’s easy to speculate. But that’s not the business we’re in; we want solid answers and so do many Juneauites.

Because this is our youth — the future leaders, business owners, potential lifelong residents who will look for reasons to make their home in Juneau — why blatantly deny them opportunities for enrichment?

There’s much to say about the benefits of travel for youth, including the opportunity to broaden horizons, increasing opportunities for competition, the cultivation of new friendships and stronger community awareness. And these benefits aren’t only for athletes. Band trips and academic competitions, to name a few, also reap these same rewards.

Back on the sports field, studies say it best and their conclusions follow a common vein — participating in sports in middle school positively affects all aspects of a young teen’s life. Youth in sports typically have a better overall picture of health; the increased activity fights back against America’s obesity epidemic. For young women, studies found those who belonged to a sports team or had taken part in vigorous physical activity in the last seven days were more satisfied and optimistic about their lives. Active young adults have typically mastered the three ‘Ps’ — practice, persistence and patience.

Obviously, a student doesn’t have to travel to reap the benefits of sports involvement. The option should be made available, however.

As resident Steve Sue Wing mentioned in his “My Turn,” published on Sunday, even fundraising opportunities create a teaching moment “for students to experience the cost to support their activity.”

We are concerned this recent decision by the JSD will have a lasting negative impact, including fewer students involved in local sports. We know the number of club teams will increase, but those are not always all-inclusive. We worry this may set a precedent for more cuts to come.

Perhaps if we understood more we could rally around the verdict. These days there are many questions and even more concerns, especially when some schools won’t even bus student athletes to a friendly soccer match across town.


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