Archive for Wednesday, November 13, 2002

COST OF COMPETITION

November 13, 2002

Sports are no longer just a pasttime in the United States. Instead, athletics have become a multimillion-dollar enterprise, and those who are good enough to reach the pinnacle are financially set for life.

While high school sports do not even approach the high-dollar business of professional and college ranks, the high school extracurriculars would not exist without money.

Additionally, while economics seems to be the driving force of professional athletics, high school sports yield a different benefit.

Basehor-Linwood High School faces the same costs for sports as most other high schools, and according to BLHS officials, the activities are worth every penny.

COST OF ATHLETICS

In reality, the costs for high school sports are rather minimal compared to an average high school budget.

BLHS athletic director Joe Keeler said only a small percentage of the school's overall budget goes toward athletics, and according to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), only 1 to 3 percent of most budgets across the nation go toward sports.

Keeler said each year Basehor-Linwood spends approximately $41,000 for fall sports, which include football, volleyball, cross country and soccer. This figure is not exact and does not include field and gym maintenance.

"These are approximate figures that cover general costs," Keeler said.

Another factor that may alter the number is the uniform rotation, Keeler said.

Each sport receives uniform upgrades based on a rotation, and the overall cost could go up or down depending on which sport is up in the rotation.

Football receives by far the most funding, more than three times the next highest sport, volleyball. The $23,000 the district spends each year on football includes staffing, officials, general equipment, transportation and training fees.

Volleyball costs $7,500, which includes staffing, officials, general equipment, entry fees and transportation.

The cost for soccer, $7,300, includes staffing, officials, general equipment and transportation.

Cross country is least expensive at $3,000, which includes staffing, entry fees and general equipment.

While the cost may not be high comparatively, the money still has to come from somewhere. The majority of the money comes out of the district budget. The school district allocates a portion of the money it receives to the athletic budget. This budget covers most of the expenses including uniforms and equipment.

The high school itself has a small in-house budget that it can divert to athletic expenses like officials. In addition, revenue from games helps pay for officials and tournament entries.

Unfortunately, for parents, the financial burden does not fall solely on the school. The cost of having an athlete in the family is not cheap. Parents end up paying for transportation to games, admission into games, concessions and equipment for their sons or daughters.

The soccer, volleyball and football teams traveled an average of about 250 miles each this fall. According to Runzeimer International, a firm specializing in cost analysis, the average car costs 44 cents per mile to operate, including gas and maintenance. Using that figure, parents will pay $110 for transportation if they go to all games.

Add the mandatory cost of admission, which averages to be about $40 per person, and one parent will pay at least $150. The cost can greatly increase as the number of people in the family who attend increase and as the family purchases concessions and equipment.

If parents have more than one student playing sports, expenses will increase accordingly.

Allowing for a low estimate of $50 for miscellaneous purchases, a parent will pay approximately $200 for one athletic season for one child. Obviously, this number can go up or down depending on the family.

BENEFITS OF ATHLETICS

To determine the true worth of high school athletics, one must compare the costs versus the benefits.

Distinguishing the benefits is not as black and white as figuring costs.

However, the consensus at BLHS appears to be that sports and extracurricular activities in general have a long-lasting benefit that greatly outweighs the costs.

"I feel the discipline and commitment student-athletes learn through being involved in athletic programs can help them and benefit them throughout their lives," Keeler said. "It teaches them how to work with others to achieve a common goal.

"Statistics have shown throughout the years that students involved in any type of activity are also more successful academically."

A study conducted by the American College Testing Service showed the importance of activities like athletics. The study compared four factors in predicting success after high school. Grades in high school, in college and scores on the ACT were not useful in predicting success. The only useful predictor of success was whether the person participated in extracurricular activities.

According to NFHS, a survey of 75 top executives in Fortune 500 companies found similar results. Of the 75 surveyed, 95 percent had played high school sports. Participation in student government came in second, 41 percent lower, at 54 percent.

The NFHS also said people derive other benefits from activities such as higher grades, better attendance and life lessons.

For BLHS football coach Paul Brown, the lifelong lessons that his sport teaches are paramount. He is so dedicated to teaching more than just the game that the first three pages of the team's playbook is about having the right character.

He said all activities are beneficial in that respect, but football might be the most.

"There is really nothing else like football," Brown said. "There are sports that are more lifetime oriented, but there is nothing to match its dynamics. It's one of the toughest things you can do.

"And it's not always the win that matters. It's like a test. You can fail a test, but you still learn in the process. The best lesson you can get from football is when you get knocked down on your backside, and you learn to keep getting back up. That's what life's all about, and football teaches that better than anything."

Beyond football, Brown said that high schools have made great advances in high school activities. He said he advises his players to participate in a variety of activities because all activities will benefit those who truly want to participate.

With Kansas facing a budget deficit approaching $1 billion dollars, officials will be searching for ways to save money.

Already education is feeling the crunch, but BLHS officials like Keeler and Brown hope the budget will not affect high school activities. To them, the education provided by sports is one just as important as learning in the classroom.

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