Aidan Wixted has been a mid-fielder for the varsity soccer team since eighth grade. Next year, his participation may be jeopardized by the district’s new pay to play fees.
“With the fees in place, high school soccer will loose a lot of its higher level players to club teams,” Wixted said. “I am willing to pay the fee as long as the other kids on the team pay. If they don’t, then the level of the team will be so low that it will be hard to become a better soccer player by participating.”
Wixted feels that this will significantly curb athletic participation.
“While putting the fee in place might seem necessary from a financial aspect, it will really mess up a lot of the traditions and fun associated with sports.”
Athletes will be charged a $100 fee for participation in their first sport and $50 in their second. Additional sports will be free of charge.
“Pay to play fees are to help offset the cost of the coaches,” school board member Andy Ziegler said. “Coaches are paid a stipend (small salary) in addition to their teacher pay. Some school districts terminated sports so they wouldn’t have to pay the stipends. Some implemented pay to play. Our pay to play fees will not cover all of the coaches’ stipends. However it will help enough to not terminate sports.”
While the fees may not be ideal, Ziegler says that it is better than eliminating sports programs entirely.
“I will not support the termination of sports,” he said. “I prefer not to charge a fee, however it is a better option than termination.”
Middle school sports will cost $50 for the first and $25 for the second sport. This year, seventh grader Drew Keener participated in middle school basketball and junior varsity soccer. If he chooses to continue playing these sports next year, he must pay a fee of $150.
“I wish I did not have to pay to play,” he said. “However, the fee will not make me quit playing. I have a great love for basketball and soccer and I find great joy in representing my school. Still, I feel as if the fee will be a great inconvenience to all athletes.”
The District has decided that there will be a $200 maximum per family. Junior Kaylee Lew, who plays soccer and lacrosse, feels that this cap is a good idea.
“It is not fair to the kids who cannot participate in sports because their families are in a tight economic situation, ” Lew said. “Athletics should be a minor cost, not an outrageous $100 or $200. My younger brother Ayden and I will continue to do all the sports we do now because we are fortunate enough to do that, but I feel really bad for the kids who do not have the same opportunity as us.”
For some students, like Kristina Youngson, who was on the dance, swim and track teams, the ability to partake in multiple sports is worth the costs.
“For me, it won’t be a problem, but I know it will affect some people by making it harder for them to participate in the sports they want to. I still will be able to play the sports I want to, but it is definitely more important now to only participate in the sports I am really dedicated to and care about,” she said.
The first payment for fall sport participation will be due on Sept. 15.
“If a person wants to play badly enough, they are just going to have to pay that money,” Athletic Director Kimberly Shepherd said. “Knowing this well in advance, it will hopefully give families some time to start saving that money if they need to.”
If a student cannot pay the fee but wants to play, the district is considering alternate methods of payment.
“Students could raise the funds just as they do today for some of their participation expenses,” Zeigler said. “The other will be a scholarship fund that will be granted to students with financial hardship.”
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Beth Thedy—whose office developed the Pay to Participate revenue enhancement—explains there will be safeguards put in place for students who are part of the district’s free and reduced lunch program.
“For high school students, those on free or reduced lunch will pay $25 for the first sport and $12.50 for the second sport,” she said. “Middle school students will pay $20 for the first sport and $10 for the second.”
Thedy adds that these measures should prevent schools from having to drop out of the league.
“The divisions through FHSAA are made up of many schools, but if a school does not have enough students for a particular sport, it may limit the number of competitions for the other schools,” Thedy said. “As for the impact, the athletic directors and principals are hopeful there will be minimal impact because of the lower rate for students on free or reduced lunch.”