High School Sports Suffer From Deficit

By  | 

In Okemos, student-athletes pay to play their sports. Athletic Director Keith Froelich says, per student, it's a $150 yearly fee for each athlete to play.

But news the state is down $800 million has the Okemos athletic department worried; if funds are cut, extracurriculars may suffer. So rather than cutting programs, student athletes may see bigger bills to pay.

"We have to be careful that we begin to eliminate students from participating in extracurricular activities because it costs too much," Froelich warns.

Waverly High School hasn't had to institute "pay to play" rules just yet. Athletic Director Phil Odlum worries that day is just around the corner.

"We know the cuts are coming," Odlum says. "We'll try to be prepared. It's going to be a sad day when we have to start asking kids to pay to play."

In most cases, it's the parents who are footing these extracurricular bills.

"From my perspective, it's money well spent. Paying to play sports-- it's just something you have to get used to," says Eaton Rapids parent Dave Jaksa, who pays for his freshman son to play basketball.

But not everyone feels-- or can do-- the same.

"I'd be upset [if Waverly did 'pay to play']," says Waverly parent Debby Goins. "I couldn't afford it. I have five kids, and three played sports at once. They'd be sad. It'd be too bad if they couldn't play because they had to pay."

"What athletics offers to a young man or young lady is well worth the money, rather than cutting programs," says Odlum.

Athletics may be expensive, but proponents like Odlum and Okemos' Froelich maintain they're worth it. Athletics teach leadership, teamwork and confidence; cutting those programs may prove the biggest loss for the state.