Money in sports creates unfair advantages

Haley Bayne, News Section Editor

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Being involved in athletics necessitates money, but how are sports and money truly related?

While the high school’s athletic programs do cost money, students often have the most trouble paying for outside training that they feel is necessary for success on a high school team.

When registering to be on a team at the high school, a prospective player is asked to pay the Athletic Department $300, but a player can also request a scholarship.

Yet, even with the option of a scholarship, some students notice a strained relationship between athletics and money.

Senior Anna Ho played volleyball her freshman and sophomore year. However, Ho was cut junior year, even after practicing with other team members throughout the summer. Ho’s coach told her that if she had done a specialized club team, like SMASH Volleyball, she would have had a better chance of making the high school’s team.

Ho said that because of SMASH’s costly fee, she couldn’t play on the club’s team. She said it was unfair that playing on a club team could guarantee someone a spot on the team.

“SMASH is like $1000, and I can’t afford to spend $1000 on a volleyball club,” Ho said. “It is a money thing for me because my mom wasn’t going to be paying $1000 for SMASH. Why would I do that? I thought that I shouldn’t have to put in the money to have a spot on varsity.”

An anonymous athlete on the varsity crew team was assisted with their playing costs. While the high school only offers crew as a sport for the spring athletic season, many rowers also participate on a team during the fall, winter and, occasionally, summer seasons to become better. The athlete asked for a partial scholarship for the fall crew season and the optional winter training trip in Austin, Texas. The fall season costs $800, and the training trip costs around $1200. The athlete’s family had trouble paying for these costs, and they weren’t fully aware of the costs in advance.

The athlete’s scholarship was paid by the crew team’s own financial reserve from fundraising events.

According to the anonymous athlete, they’re not the only one on the team that’s had trouble with the seasonal cost. Yet, many athletes and their families feel ashamed to ask for help.

“I don’t think a lot of people ask for scholarships, even when they need them,” the anonymous athlete said. “I talked to a couple of different people on the team who said they couldn’t go on the Texas trip because their families couldn’t afford it. They said they didn’t ask for scholarships because their parents didn’t want to because they would be embarrassed or feel like they didn’t really need it.”

The anonymous athlete said that financial situations are not often discussed in the athletic community.

“You don’t really talk about when you need financial help,” the anonymous athlete said. “I totally understand because I don’t really talk about my financial situation with people because it’s not really relevant. I still work as hard as everyone else to accomplish my goals. It’s just that, in order to get there, I do need a bit of financial support.”

Senior Kerimal Suriel played volleyball during her freshman, sophomore and junior years. Her coach suggested that she join a club team during the offseason. However, Suriel’s financial situation did not allow her to pay for her club.

Suriel asked social worker Paul Epstein to help fund her club season during her sophomore year. Epstein used reserves from a social worker department-wide fund and fully covered her playing costs. According to Suriel, she was unable to receive funding for the club her junior year because of the department’s low budget.

“I just couldn’t find somebody to fund it again,” Suriel said.” The school has funds, but they are very limited. So, they can’t do that for everyone because it’s too much money. Junior year, I just accepted it.”

Suriel said that there should be a scholarship designed specifically for high school athletes.

“I’m not saying that everyone deserves a scholarship because the whole point of sports is competition,” Suriel said. “Not everyone is good enough to deserve an athletic scholarship. But, if you see a student or an athlete who has a lot of potential, but they’re struggling economically, a scholarship fund should be made at BHS. The problem is that Paul’s scholarship fund was for all social work in the school, so that gets tapped a lot. It would be good if they made a scholarship fund for sports outside of school.”

When Suriel tried out as a senior, she didn’t make the team.

““If you look at the varsity team right now, everyone does a club,” Suriel said. “In order to make a volleyball team here in Brookline, you have to do club.”

According to Assistant Athletic Director Kyle Williams, coaches should not make their roster based on attendance at specific offseason clubs or practices.

“They aren’t making decisions as to who is on the team based off of what someone does in the offseason,” Williams said. “I can understand the athlete’s perspective. They are going to feel pressure to be parts of those clubs or teams or training sessions.”

Williams said that coaches may introduce offseason opportunities to the team per request of players, which has the potential to create a divided dynamic.

“I would say that coaches are in a tough spot because if they don’t offer the kids anything, people complain why they’re not getting offered anything in the offseason,” Williams said. “They want to know what their coaches recommend. They want to get better and improve, especially if they love the sport. Then, if coaches do offer things, then some athletes say, ‘We can’t afford it, or we can’t get there,’ or any of the other options. It’s a situation where a coach is caught in between.”

Williams said that even if a student-athlete did not have sufficient funds for an official club team, there are many other options..

“There are a lot of great organizations in the town working to provide opportunities, whether that is Brookline Community Foundation, which works on grants with us in the past, and the Brookline Teen Center, which is a great option for kids who want to strength train or do yoga and spins classes in their offseason. The BTC is a no cost option,” Williams said. “At the high school, we do have scholarship options and we have a huge array of sports. We have great intramural options through health and fitness. Those are no cost, and you can just drop in.”

According to Williams, playing a sport at the high school is probably cheaper than playing on a team elsewhere.

“One thing that’s interesting is that the cost of our program is significantly less than doing a program at a club, especially if that program was out of season for an athlete, Williams said. “They’re paying a much lower rate here than they would have to pay elsewhere.”

Athletic Director Pete Rittenburg said that the Athletic Department tries its hardest to fund student-athletes who need economic aid.

“When teams decide that they want the extra gear or special field trip or whatever, they’re going to initiate the funding process,” Rittenburg said. “If there are shortfalls, we’re going to do everything that we can to help fill in. But, there are limits. We have to be responsible to our budget, but we will try to help where we can.”

Williams also said that coaches are urged to be respectful of family dynamics of an athlete in regards to economic abilities.

“I know that we emphasis at all of our coaches meetings, and I have had many one-on-one conversations with coaches as well, that they have to be aware of their student-athletes and their families, and what that means in terms of them paying for things,” Williams said.

According to Rittenburg, the community works its hardest to ensure all students equal opportunities, and this translates to economics and the sports world.

“Money should not be an influence in athletics, and this is also at the core of our department, the school, the town and the district,” Rittenburg said. “Nobody wants to see anyone excluded or disadvantaged because of finances. Essentially, sports should be an even playing field. Teams should be based on ability and attitude. We hope that’s the way that it is.”

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