I believe every junior high student participating in a sport should play in every game.
Conversely, at the varsity level, you pay to participate, not necessarily to play.
That belief may change with the current proposal by Warrior Way Inc., a nonprofit corporation working to save Brainerd Warriors activities.
The group is proposing raising activity fees substantially with no family cap, at least initially. Fees would increase from 10 percent of the $1.1 million that is currently publicly funded for all Brainerd middle school and high school athletics and activities to 36 percent of a reduced budget.
Students paid $80 to participate in a varsity activity this school year. That's low and an increase is warranted, but how much is too steep for a retirement/tourist community? Many families will be forced to make even more tough financial choices.
I applaud Warrior Way Inc. for coming together for a good cause. The group deserves credit and the community's help. The group's collective hands are tied, however, with the amount of money needed to spare all activities and athletics from being cut.
The proposal may change or a family cap may be added but, if it is not, there may be a dramatic decrease in participation. Gone may be many of the three-sport athletes Brainerd prides itself on.
There also will be an increased demand on coaches from parents paying increased fees that their child should play more. That request may be justified now.
One argument is parents are already paying a large amount for traveling teams, summer leagues, clinics, camps, etc. While that may be true, many parents aren't because they can't afford it.
If families are paying for those other things will there be enough money to pay to participate in school-sponsored activities and athletics?
The area likely to get hit hardest is the junior high programs. If you're a family of four with one child in the senior high and another in the junior high, and you can only afford to have one participate, to which one are you giving the money?
Or, if you have a child who is half interested in an activity and just wants to try something new, is it going to be worth the investment? It may be for some families, but my guess is that many others can't sacrifice that much.
That would be the biggest loss because junior high is the best time for young adults to explore their options, discover their talents and weaknesses and either develop or improve them.
WWI concedes participation may drop because of the increase in fees. It would like to set up a grant or scholarship fund for those families who can't afford the fees.
Questions abound with that scenario. Who is in charge of that money? Who qualifies? What is the cutoff? What if the funds run out and there are still money-eligible families?
Tough questions need to be answered before this proposal goes to a school board vote. But at least WWI is proposing something constructive as opposed to cutting programs.
With tough times come tough decisions, but at least WWI is giving parents and community members more options than what was out there.
It's now up to the families of School District 181 to put a price on the clear benefits of extracurricular activities.
jeremy millsop, sports writer, may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5856.
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