February 27th, 2013

10-S, 10-D

On travelling for athletics

Talking about my nephew's basketball tournament — specifically, about the distance travelled by some of the teams to get to the venue — reminded me of my days as a student teacher at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, back in the fall of 1990. Which, by the way, I hated. I'm not going to get into all the reasons why, but there's one reason that is particularly relevant to the matter at hand.

Cedar Rapids is a small city stuck in the middle of an otherwise rural county. Tthe high schools in Cedar Rapids are large, as are a couple of the high school in nearby consolidated districts, but most of the nearby high schools serve single small towns or maybe two or three very small ones, and unsurprisingly have much smaller enrollments. Compare, for example, Washington and North-Linn Senior High School in Coggon, which are both in Linn County. Washington, drawing from the eastern half of Cedar Rapids, has about 1,700 students. North-Linn, drawing students from Coggon, Troy Mills, and Walker, has 222.

When it comes to football, small-town schools like North-Linn don't want to play the city schools — not that the Iowa High School Athletic Association allows it — because of the inherent competitive advantage big public schools have over little ones. So in order for Washington to fill out their schedule, they have to travel. And the small number of largish cities in eastern Iowa means sometimes they have to travel, as they say, a fer piece. Last year, they had away games in Iowa City, Waterloo, and Dubuque, which are 27, 55, and 72 miles away respectively.

(Not that schools like North-Linn have it better; one of their away games was 80 miles away. Any high school in a sparsely populated state like Iowa will face similar challenges.)

Anyway, the point is that when the Washington Warriors had an away game at a far-flung location, the football players and cheerleaders would leave before the end of the day, so there were Fridays when many of the students in my afternoon classes would be on a bus instead of at their desks. It was bad enough that the constant parade of inservice days and holidays and standardized testing days and half-days due to excessive heat and assemblies and so on meant I only had one week out of twelve where all my classes met every day; I didn't need the school taking students out of class on top of that. Very frustrating.