Splitting sports teams diminishes the experience

Posted: Monday, April 26, 2004

F or a young athlete, a state title is the ultimate victory. For an actor, a sold-out show is the ultimate compliment. For a debater, winning is the payment for months of hard work. After-school programs are almost as important to the success of a high school as are classes. The Juneau School District is proposing to build a second high school in Juneau in order to solve overcrowding issues. Building a second high school in Juneau is not only economically unrealistic, but would lower the quality of the sports programs by splitting athletes, funding and coaching between the two high schools.

I write this as a freshman in college, but my high school days are not far behind me. When I reflect upon my four years in the classroom at Juneau-Douglas High School, they are overshadowed by my moments on the soccer field. Winning any game is a wonderful feeling, one that I'm sure is magnified 100 times when winning a state title. Though I have never experienced this I'm sure the members of the 2001 and 2003 men's soccer team can explain it to you, or possibly the women's 2002 softball team, or the 2003 women's volleyball team, who finished the perfect season with a state championship. The men's basketball team has had more than its share of state titles, a streak that can be attributed to the presence of Carlos Boozer, now a professional basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Even with Boozer's talent, without a solid team behind him or numerous state titles, he would have never received the exposure and opportunities that he did. This is the importance of a talented team. While many feel that having two teams representing Juneau in a particular sport will increase opportunity for participants, they do not realize that very few teams actually cut members from their teams, already giving the opportunity to those with the desire to participate in sports. The separating of athletes between the two schools will be just as detrimental as the splitting of the funding between two athletic programs.

Each game that a team plays costs money in the form of transportation and uniforms. Fund-raising is often done by selling raffle tickets, and in a small community, such as Juneau, there are only so many companies and so many people willing to buy raffle tickets, making this nearly impossible if two teams were attempting to do this simultaneously. While the sharing of funds will decrease the quality and the number of games played by a sports team, a need for double the number of coaches will greatly decrease the quality of performance of these teams.

Any athlete at Juneau-Douglas High School is blessed with wonderful coaches who have the ability to lead their teams to a state title. For example, while playing soccer, I had the opportunity to learn under the instruction of what many consider the best soccer coach in the state. Ask most JDHS athletes and they will tell you that their coach is irreplaceable. It would be impossible to find another of such high caliber in a small community like Juneau. This presents the third aspect of sports that would suffer in the event that a second high school is built. The necessity for double the number of coaches would present a decrease in the experience, quality and effectiveness of the instruction that the players are receiving.

First-hand experience has allowed me to relate these arguments to soccer, but it's not hard to see that the addition of a second athletics program to Juneau would decrease the quality of all sports at the high school level. The opportunities to participate in sports are currently very high and a second athletics program would not create a significantly greater opportunity. The pride that is carried by each JDHS athlete is due to the success of Juneau athletics and would suffer greatly with the addition of a new high school to the community.

• Olena Lundquist is a 2003 graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School and attends St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.

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