When sports becomes more important than students

By Paul Moomjean 07/11/2013


I’ve successfully coached wrestling in Ventura County and Los Angeles County for more than 10 years. So everything I write from this point on is coming from a coach who loves to win and believes in the importance of a great high school sports experience. If my precursor leaves you scratching your head, then let me fill you in on one of the biggest off-season high school sports stories within Ventura County involving our very own St. Bonaventure and Oaks Christian.  
Earlier this year four parochial schools (Oaks Christian, St. Bonaventure, Damien of La Verne, and St. Lucy’s of Glendora) were plucked out of their current leaguing areas by CIF (the leading body of student athletes), area administrators and athletic directors and sent into other area leagues adjacent to them. No longer will St. Bonaventure or Oaks Christian battle it out with other area teams; they will literally be bused out to play teams in the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles area. Their crime? Being too good at particular sports. Oh, and believing in God. Some administrators seem to be against schools that win and believe in God. It hurts too many feelings.


On June 20, after their appeal to CIF to stay local was rejected, both St. Bonaventure and Oaks Christian decided to sue CIF, claiming religious discrimination.


“I feel like the CIF has forced us to do this,” Oaks Christian athletic director Jan Hethcock said. “In all honesty, this is not something we wanted to do, but this is about the students and what is best for them.”


Let’s not forget the amount of time and traveling about to happen either.


“I have said from the first day, this is about the students at St. Bonaventure and the negative impact this move will have on them,” St. Bonaventure principal Marc Groff said. “Our kids will be on 10-hour trips to play games in the middle of the week, and their academics are going to suffer. They will be doing their homework on buses and not getting home until late at night. It’s not fair to them or to their families to have to travel that far.”


Another issue is the way CIF handled the redistricting of the Christian schools. St. Lucy and Damien’s lawyer Robert Prata put it this way: “Nowhere in American jurisprudence is the entity that hears the appeal the same entity that already decided the matter from which the appeal has been taken. CIF is mandated, under the Education Code, to provide a neutral appeals process. They never did. It was not a legitimate appeals panel.”  


What we really have here is a clear bias against Christian athletes who win at sports. And what some administrators have decided that if a Christian school has a dominant sports program it should be punished by having to travel and force other good sports schools to travel as well. Incidentally, no one is asking public school powerhouses Westlake and Royal to move anywhere. 

 
On top of that, what these administrators are saying is that sports are more important than academics. Now, any teacher will tell you that sports trumps classroom time. On game days, kids are pulled out early despite the lessons of the day. No questions asked. Tell a kid he has to miss practice or a game because of a test or lecture and you might as well look for a new job after the mommies, daddies and coaches chase you out of town. In reality, with this CIF decision, we’ve lost the war on academics. Sports won. Learning lost.


But the saddest part here is the message the adults in charge have sent to our local Ventura County student athletes. They’ve essentially told them winning is the most important part of sports. And if you can’t beat a team, get rid of them. Don’t train harder. Just get a body of bureaucrats to get rid of them.


No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, we should all agree that sports should not and cannot come before our kids’ educations. No matter if they go to public or private schools.


The old adage is, “It’s only a game.” It still is, right?

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