Tuesday, September 23, 2008

LETTER: Good coaches can still succeed

I have no reason to doubt the facts presented in the Sunday News article regarding the hurdles faced by sports programs in inner city high schools like McCaskey, which are populated by overwhelmingly high percentages of low income or poor students, most of whom are Black and Latino students. Nor do I object to the presentation of these circumstances.

McCaskey is a much poorer and a far less diverse population economically and racially than when our children attended there. As the percentage of more affluent families continue to drop, it is not surprising that the network and support systems they were instrumental in providing for athletic as well as high achievement programs have similarly declined. For example, there used to be numerous after school and weekend leagues in sports like soccer and basketball that served as 'minor leagues' for the District's sports programs, as well as boosters and auxiliaries.

In addition, there has been a high rate of turnover in the leadership of the district, now five superintendents in about the last six years, as well as turnover of the principalship of the high school, along with a concurrent and significant loss of highly influential and financially well off board members.

Still, what distresses me about the article is that there appears to be something of a resignation that the odds are now too high to have sustained success in athletics, even in those sports where McCaskey has traditionally been a powerhouse.* Athletic participation always has been a source of motivation for inner city athletes to stay in school, and as a ticket to win a scholarship for college.

Moreover, success in high profile sports remains a source of community pride. In sum while the challenges are more demanding than in the past, I continue to believe that coaches in high profile sports with the ability and determination to win and to rally the community behind his or her program can still succeed. * The basketball program under Steve Powell's current leadership is a notable example.

* Emphasis added