12/03/10 — Stevens: What Price do kids pay in winter?

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Stevens: What Price do kids pay in winter?

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on December 3, 2010 2:00 PM

A former high school athlete, I understand that teenagers can be taught as many valuable lessons through sports as they can in the classroom.

However, lately I've been questioning exactly what today's high school athlete is being taught. What price tag are we placing on competition and the thrill of victory?

I left a local high school recently following a girls' and boys' varsity basketball doubleheader at 10:45 p.m. As I drove back to the News-Argus, I kept thinking about how I would feel if I were a parent and my son or daughter routinely drove home that late despite having school the next day.

I fully understand the financial decisions behind playing both the girls' and boys' junior varsity contests in the same gym as the girls' and boys' varsity contests. What becomes difficult to grasp is the logic of putting cost-cutting measures before the safety of our student athletes.

Both JV games are played with four seven-minute quarters while the varsity games feature eight minute quarters. With the girls' junior varsity game starting at 4 p.m., I struggle to get my mind around how it takes between six and seven hours to play two hours of actual game time between all four games.

This leaves little leeway for overtime and one can only imagine what time some of these athletes are getting to bed once they've showered, gotten something to eat, completed any unfinished homework or studied for a test.

The likelihood that most of these athletes will play sports beyond college is very small which places an increased importance on their education. The quality of that education becomes greatly compromised when these student-athletes are sacrificing study time and sleep at an unnecessary cost.

In the midst of difficult economic times, I'm fully aware of the reasoning behind offering four games in one building for $6. However, I notice a large amount of parents and fans every time I'm at a game who stay for only one or two of the four games.

Virginia and several other states along the East coast have adopted the format where one school hosts the JV games with the varsity contests being played at the other school. I realize this creates financial issues with buses, security, ticket takers and concession stands.

On the plus side, it would alleviate many unnecessary late nights and it would free up extra seats in what are currently overcrowded and often times, hot and stuffy gyms.

Perhaps the greatest virtue of sports is their ability to create camaraderie, unite communities and keep America's youth productive and out of trouble while laying a foundation for their future. When administrators and coaches willfully keep our teenagers out later than they should, the price for the sake of a victory on the court becomes increasingly difficult to pay.