Thursday, April 4, 2013

City schools left behind when some schools move to WPIAL

A request has been received to post the following from the Obama Eagle:

Posted: 02 Apr 2013 07:58 AM PDT
When the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (WPIAL) agreed to take certain city schools into their association in certain sports, it meant that they would work with a City League consortium to pick and choose the schools and sports that they would allow in the league. The biggest name in scholastic sports in this region and certainly one of the best known in the country, the affects of the movement from City League into WPIAL impacts the students at Pittsburgh Obama greatly in an unfortunate way.
The swimming and soccer team were in the WPIAL this year for the first time with mixed results. Yet the baseball and softball teams remain in what’s left of the city league. Allderdice, Carrick and Brashear have all been accepted into the WPIAL for competition but that leaves three high schools, Obama, Perry, and Westinghouse, to compete among  themselves. This “city league” no longer has a championship and each of the schools only have 6 game schedules, which are against the other two schools. Athletic directors at Obama, Perry and Westinghouse schools could try to set up exhibition games with teams in the WPIAL but it’s very hard since they have a full season to prepare for and don’t have the time to play an off the record game. And of course, the poor weather has played a part in the inability to schedule games. But while the WPIAL thrives in its own monopoly of sorts, it leaves some schools in the dust with nowhere to go.
This is the case with Obama baseball and softball, and while the decision to move into the WPIAL is greeted as being a good one by most, the apparent memory lapse about schools left behind is another thing altogether.
“The committee that came up with this plan  ought to be ashamed of itself.”
Harsh words from 25 year fast-pitch softball coach—and former Obama baseball coach—Mr.Kocur. He is describing his feelings as city teams join the WPIAL in baseball and softball this spring…and leave Obama, Perry and Westinghouse behind.
“It’s outrageous, it’s reprehensible. In all of my years of coaching, it’s the worst thing I’ve seen a governing body do,” Kocur says. “ The lack of foresight in this case just numbs the mind. No one thought of the schools being left behind or of the student-athletes? Outrageous.”
Athletic Director Mr.McGee agrees. “It’s crazy….just crazy.” Leaving three schools behind irks him, as well. “There are so many teams in the WPIAL. I would have to print off a sheet to name them all. We  should be on that sheet.” Magee believes that playing in the WPIAL improves city players’ overall level of play and that the competition is inspiring, giving city players exposure they normally wouldn’t receive. More pointedly, he feels Obama can eventually compete with the WPIAL. To his credit, McGee has been able to schedule baseball games against Bishop Canevin, Sto Rox and Keystone Oaks.But he is disappointed in noting that he has not had much more luck in adding exhibition games with WPIAL schools, especially with the horrible weather we’ve had.
 Softball Coach Ms.Wagner feels a bit differently about the entry into the WPIAL to begin with. “Overall, softball in the city is terrible…there is no ability to build a program and we’re playing kids on a different level in the WPIAL. Given those facts, Wagner doesn’t see competing in the WPIAL as being an option for an Obama.“We don’t have the talent to compete.,” and without a feeder program from elementary/middle school or the community recreational leagues, “We don’t stand a chance against WPIAL teams.”
Still, none of this explains why three city schools were left behind. None of this explains the reasoning that would entail a student who loves baseball or softball having a six game schedule. None of this explains why a city parent, who pays taxes, would agree with the city’s own not having a real season and chance for a real championship.
“Obama and Perry may have taken some lumps in the first few years if they were moved into the WPIAL, but they have the numbers of kids actually playing, “ Mr.Kocur says. “They have the interest in the sport. How do you just leave them behind?”
Meanwhile, Golf and Swim team coach Mr.Rauterkus sees the positives and the negatives of the move. He believes that sweeping changes in terms of the approach to athletics is needed.” The city has always had talented student athlete and some dedicated coaches. But we all know that the opportunities for city residents and that of our suburban competitors are not similar, he says. “ We have plenty of catch up to do. But, the pressing need is to make the top administrators see the value of wholistic athletic programs and then expend the energy to empower our coaches. Most of all, these are economical, efficient and healthy mental investments.”
Mr.Rauterkus believes that perhaps the moves were made without putting the necessary emphasis on upgrading athletics in PPS. “Some reformers wanted to migrate PPS teams to the WPIAL, but all were in full agreement that serious overhauls and upgrades to PPS sports programs and opportunities were necessary.”  So it seems that some recommendations were accepted and some just set aside. And within this, little thought was given to the schools that were left behind in every sport.
“I’m just at a loss to explain how that can happen,” Kocur says. “It just can’t happen.”
Perhaps baseball player Cam Miller put it best. “I think it stinks. You get better by playing the best competition,” he said. “I’d much rather be playing WPIAL schools.”


Mark Rauterkus said...

Thanks for posting the article. There has always been a flood of postings about sports reform here. Some are from left field too. (pun)

Work on the PPS Athletic Reform Task Force evaporated when Mark Roosevelt announced he was departing Pittsburgh.

I think it is prudent to review and evaluate the reform with the prior task force now that year one in the WPIAL is coming to a close. Many have retired, but they still care. Plus, I think it is important to begin those efforts again.

Many students and families depart Pittsburgh because they are not rooted to their mates and schools and teams as the year-round opportunities are not as robust as they could and should be.

Anonymous said...

Getting good coaches (even if it means going outside the school system) and building programs is what needs to be done to be competitive in all of our sports. And yes, you only get better by playing good competition.

That athletic advisory committee that was set up a few years back was another PPS smoke and mirrors. PPS does what they want to do irregardless of community and parental feedback. They don't care if some teams/student athletes get left behind. Sad to say but city league athletics is a shell of what it once was. It is a travesty.

Questioner said...

What happened to the person with the marketing background that led those community meetings? Strong concerns were expressed about teams left behind. Did the community input go beyond the ubiquitous small group/ white sheet notes? It would be good to pull out those input sheets and comment cards (if they haven't been tossed in the trash) to see how the plan we have matches up with what the community requested, and have the person who decided on this set up be available for questions. There needs to be accountability.

Anonymous said...

I know nothing about WPIAL or even sports so this is really just trying to understand... When. The city decided to drop real middle schools-- with middle school athletic directors etc.-- they went 180 from the rest of the districts. Right there-- our kids started suffering-- and no one spoke -- cheaper to leve them sit in elementary schools -- with elementary physical education and no diverse curriculum.
In any area. Some communities maintained strong programs feeding into hs athletics, outside of school. Those communities might have athletes who have been coached and may compete strongly with districts that have real middle school athletics.
Can you begin coaching kids in 9th grade to compete with other WPIAL schools? I dont know. I do know that many young athletics, particularly AA young men, were put on the path to hs- let alone the promise-- by great middle school coaches and atheltic directors. The message that you have to " do school to do sports" wasnt bad.

Questioner said...

But yet, we keep being assured that we are headed in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

Poster at 1:26 is right on the money about middle schools (lack of) and athletics. In the late 1960s - early 1970s, Fred Ortman coached basketball at Herron Hill Jr. HS. His coaching and great teams and players such as Maurice Lucas, Sonny Lewis, Bill Clark, etc. led to Schenley's and Fifth Avenue's great success. Herron Hill was a great feeder system for those two schools. We no longer have any "feeder" schools. The young students are the losers in this as well as our high schools. Intramural programs only go so far.

Mark Rauterkus said...

The guy with the marketing background who took the job to spearhead the PPS Athletic Reform Process (on soft money) was Jake House. He departed that role as Mark Roosevelt depart town and took a position at Faison in Homewood as some wonk that was an interface among teachers, community, academics and such. It was a reform effort of some type and I didn't have much interaction with that school or him once he landed there.

He was there for more than a year but has left a while back to take a job in North Carolina (I think) that took him closer to family, etc.

Jake House gave his best effort and made a good contribution with documentation and stitching all sorts of interest into something. But, this effort needed and needs support of an active school board or else the superintendent.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Sure, there are problems with PPS when it comes to middle school sports and the lack of middle schools. That happens with the K-8 schools where the kids in grades 6, 7 and 8 might not have all the benefits of a bigger middle school can provide.

The one area that I did pitch a few fits about is the other school set-up, grades 6-12 in the same building. At U-Prep, Sci-Tech, Westinghouse and Obama, all 6-12 schools, there isn't enough cooperation and room to have great middle-school sports, freshmen teams, JV teams, and Varsity teams for both boys and girls. You can't put 10 pounds of stuff in a 5 pound bag.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Questin: Can you begin coaching kids in 9th grade to compete with other WPIAL schools?

Not well.
There should be spaces on a high school team for kids new to sports, generally. But, if the whole squad is raw as 9th grade participants, the team is not going to have much hope of getting above a .500 record, IMHO.

Of course one needs to do school to do sports. Athletes are better with attendance and grades than non-athletes, as proven in research.

But, PPS has too many that don't do sports and, in turn, don't do well at school engagement.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Intramurals.... Wow. We need lots and lots of that too. It is a word that is not used often in PPS.

This is true that PPS no longer has "feeder" schools.

But you know, that could be changed with a different attitude and direction, especially with those schools with 6-12 grades.

Case in point: A Varsity High School Coach could run a "PROGRAM" that has good coordination, supervision and structure if it was so designed. And, it would be BETTER than what happens in WPIAL settings as we do have the 6-12 schools.

For example: The Varsity Coaches at North Allegheny have to have programs at the intermediate school and at the middle schools to get all on the same page with strategies, culture, etc. They occur. But, they are in different buildings.

But with PPS we have MS and HS programs that bump into each other with space and don't coordinate. We need more coordination and more leadership and that doesn't happen with 4 head coaches. If we had 1 head and 3 or 4 assistants, each with their own domains, then things would go much better. That's what they do in WPIAL schools.

One person is in charge of boys and girls varsity teams and they also have a hand if not fully in charge of the feeder programs / middle school teams.

Even with swimming, the WPIAL swim teams happen in winter and the head coach also leads the middle school teams that happen (mostly) in the spring. So, same person coaching and kids get same systems.

PPS MS swimming happens at the same time of PPS HS swimming.

Anonymous said...

But none of this is the issue at hand in the article.
The simple question remains: how could those in charge NOT think about their own? How could they make the decision to move some teams into the WPIAL and forget about PPS athletes????
This is a slight to all PPS student athletes.
I can't imagine being a soccer player at a school still in the city league circle, or a swimmer, or a baseball or softball player.
Address the issue. How could this happen? Who allowed it to happen?

Questioner said...

One of the real problems since MR arrived is a disregard of the students who are left behind in the swirl of continuous changes- such as, the tail end of Schenley students, pushed into an ever shrinking corner of the building, some of them forced to take IB classes they never wanted or bargained for.

Anonymous said...

I agree Questioner, but do you mean that tis move into the WPIAL was made arbitrarily without even considering the fact that sons and daughters of city taxpayers essentially would have the ability to participate in an interscholastic sport in name only???
This "committee" one foresaw this?
No one knew this was coming?
This is ridiculous.
Closing Schenley was horrendous but the kids still had a school to go to. This? This is denying kids a chance to play.
You mean no one can tell me who is to blame?

Mark Rauterkus said...

There are reasons that some of the sports teams are NOT in the WPIAL. Some of the city teams struggle just to get the necessary number of players. Some of the teams are so frail that a full WPIAL schedule with night games would kill them off fully. If a city team has FORFEITS, then that's going to be bad for everyone in the city and even the other teams in other sports.

At the end of the swim season this year I went out of my way to try to engage the swim teams at Carrick, Perry and Brashear in a season ending celebration meet to help take the place of the former city championships. We could have jazzed it up with some extra events and co-ed relays and both Obama and Allderdice (the only WPIAL swim teams) would have come along too.

But the kids at those non-WPIAL swim teams were not interested in such a meet. There are lots of reasons. But, the season was over for them. They were done.

The city golf league was without Allderdice this year. It gives the 3 other schools a chance to play other teams, charter schools, JV teams instead. Coaches and ADs need to scramble more and earlier to get a seasonal schedule that matches their squads in terms of devotion, competitive matchups, etc.

I could sweet talk 4 or 5 guys into the golf squad for 2-3 times on the course a week for 5 weeks, but they are not going to play all summer and be excited to play 20 matches.

Obama Golf as a WPIAL school would stink or not happen at all.

Anonymous said...

9:19 PM You speak of "the swirl of continuous change" since the arrival of MR. A principal once told me, "An organization in constant change, is an organization in chaos. Even a running brook experiences periods of calm that ensures that the growth along its banks has time to root and flourish."

Such is not the case with PPS since the arrival of MR and company. Their quest in trying to find a silver bullet, places the district in a state of constant change. It's impossible to make progress when the means to achieve a desired goal changes year after year after year.

And the beat goes on by the top three Central Office Administrators who have a collective experience of 2 years as a principal. Yes, that's right two years. Dr. Lane never served as a principal and Dr. French and Lippert served only one year as principals before being promoted to Central Office.

Wonder why PPS is 494 out of 500 districts in the state? Look no further than those who have been hired to resolve the problems of an entire district when they themselves never had to move a school forward on their own. Oh yes, following the Broad / Gates philosophy of success, even if you never accomplished the task yourself with their assistance, influence and consultants these individuals have the collective skill set to lead PPS into the
21st Century. Who's zooming who?

Anonymous said...

Mark, you have concerns about the merger but it seems as if they are a bit different than those of the coaches and AD in the article. I'm sure you are right about programs that have few participants but it appears Obama and Perry have large numbers in baseball at least. I know Perry had a strong tradition in softball for years. I think the point is---and the question has to be asked---how did the committee that you speak of leave these kids---whose parents are PPS taxpayers---behind?
Your explanation is talking about a completely different type of situation.
I like the baseball player's quote at the end of the article. That's my experience, too.
But can you answer the question here? Was any type of contemplation done in assessing who was being left behind? If so, and the decision was made anyway, it is even more outrageous.
And where is the city AD on all of this? Pretty quiet on his front.

Mark Rauterkus said...

The PPS Sports Reform Task Force did not make the decisions as to what teams went and what teams stayed the the WPIAL. the decision was made by the PPS Administration.

The work of the PPS Sports Reform Task Force was ended prior to this discussion and decisions,

I am passing the buck, as in the buck stops here.

I don't know much, except that the final plans were not vetted before the task force.

I assume that the District VIII Committee was part of the process. That group is different and meets quarterly I hear.

The city AD chairs the D8 committee.


I do not think we are talking about different situations. Issue is, go to WPIAL or not.

Left behind or not is a matter of perspectives.

The WPIAL would have had a big say in this whole merger too.

IMNSHO, there are a hundred other issues that are more pressing about an athletic team that are more important than playing in the WPIAL or not. Doing too little and doing it too late with the programs is bad. Hiring coaches a week before the season begins, or even a month after it started, (no joke), is not the way to do things is life and in ATHLETICS.

Anonymous said...

Mike White claims to be 'the' high school sports guru in Pittsburgh journalistic circles. I have not seen word one from him about this.


Anonymous said...

From what I understand, Mike Gavlick was asked for comment and did not return the request. Why doesn't that surprise me? And how the PG or Trib have missed this is beyond me. What other school district put its kids in such a situation?

Anonymous said...

What are we going to do about it. Call KDKA-get it on the news.