The lacrosse head coaches at three local high schools said they did not know their jobs could be a casualty of 's worst financial crunch in years.
“This is tragic news,” said Glen Miles, who coaches lacrosse for the boys’ team.
disclosed documents which detailed how the district could cut $11 million from its budget without having to negotiate with employee groups. Even with those moves, it would .
Among those possible cuts include the stipends for all high school lacrosse coaches, along with assistant coaches in varsity football, boys and girls soccer and boys and girls basketball.
“In my opinion, this is tough for the lacrosse community as there have been a number of individuals who worked hard the last decade-plus to have the sport accepted by the high schools and districts,” said Joel Schmit-Kallas, coach for the boys team at .
“This sport has been spreading like wildfire across the United States, and it's another opportunity for a kid to branch out and grab a hold of something which they can care about,” Schmit-Kallas said.
In February, then-interim deputy superintendent Robyn Phillips recommended to the Board of Trustees eliminating those budget items that are “nice to have” but not essential.
Capo spokesman Marcus Walton did not respond to questions about whether the loss of lacrosse coach stipends – which total nearly $46,000 district-wide – means the end of the sport at the high school level.
Marshall Neal, head coach for the boys team at , said he’d volunteer to coach for free.
“I have coached for over 20 years. It is a commitment to my sport and giving back to the lacrosse community,” Neal said. He figures the $3,200 stipend he received this year from the district broke down to about $7 an hour after all the time he put into the team.
“Last year, I donated my stipend to buy equipment for the program that the school was unable or unwilling to do. The loss of a stipend would be disappointing but will not prevent me from coaching,” he said. “The value of my contribution to the school is important to me.”
Lacrosse has been growing so fast in popularity that .
“I'm not saying this sport is going to die because of the district cuts,” said Capo’s Schmit-Kallas. “I'm saying it's going to be that much harder to try to sport because the barrier of entry is now that much more expensive.”
Neal does fear that as budget cuts threaten other sports, families that can afford it will flock to club teams.
“Should all sports become solely funded by parents, which could be a reality, the issue of equal access in public schools will raise its ugly head,” Neal said. “I hear the . It may drive high school sports into the club system where you have to pay to play regardless.”
The role of sports cannot be downplayed, Miles said.
“High school sports are critical to the development of others-centered student athletes. High school athletes learn teamwork, leadership and commitment to a cause greater than one self. These are critical life skills and our survival as a nation of young people depends on our young people learning these skills,” Miles said.
“My question for the board is, if we don’t teach them this through their education, where are they going to learn it?” he added.