Time for sports equality

This letter has been submitted to the Saranac Lake Central School District Board of Education.

I am writing this letter in support of the Saranac Lake Sports Advocacy Group. Having two daughters who played sports in the district from seventh through 12th grade, I feel that I have some experience and important points to back up the mission of the group. I’m glad that someone has brought up the inequalities in sports, and I feel it’s time that the district take a long, hard look at the issues and makes some changes in order to make things more equal for all athletes who participate in sports in the district.

¯ Boys hockey has a trainer present at their games. Girls hockey does not.

¯ The two boys pitchers’ mounds at the baseball fields at Petrova field have tarps placed on the pitching mounds during inclement weather of rain. The three girls fields do not.

¯ The boys baseball fields have had “cages” as dugouts for years. The modified girls field at Petrova just recently got these in the last couple of years. That field is in terrible shape. Compare the baseball field with the softball field at Petrova. The varsity baseball field is in pristine condition, including green grass, while the girls field at Petrova has holes, uneven areas and brown patches.

¯ During the 2015 softball season, the junior varsity girls first aid kits contained expired items, and parents were bringing their own items in the event of injury to a player. This became an issue when the athletic director was alerted to expired items. The solution was to not let parents into the first aid boxes.

¯ The Fifth Quarter Club is only for football. Why not be a booster club in support of ALL district-wide sports, boys and girls?

¯ Buses are overcrowded for certain sports. During the 2015 soccer season, the girls soccer team had one bus. They were sitting seven to an aisle, connecting seatbelts to create a seat in the aisle. The aisle was filled with equipment as well. This was brought to the attention of the AD, but nothing was done. How many buses does football get and for how many players?

¯ During boys basketball games, all four sets of bleachers are pulled out. For girls games, only two sets are pulled out.

¯ Girls softball finally got new helmets in 2016 but only because a parent went to Superintendent Fox with a concern of safety. The catcher’s equipment was unsafe and held together with tape.

¯ In 2013 or 2014, the modified girls soccer team received “new uniforms,” only they were the boys old basketball uniforms.

¯ The 2017 football schedule shows a total of 10 scrimmages and games. Of those 10 games, five were home games. I’m curious what the cost of upkeep for that field for five home games would average out to be per game. Not only is the football game field only used for football; they also have their own practice field.

¯ Schroeter’s Field is used for lacrosse and soccer, both boys and girls. There is a very small set of bleachers for spectators, no restrooms, and parking is dangerous. The field is in terrible shape, with holes and uneven areas, creating a situation where injuries easily occur.

¯ Superintendent Fox reported that all coaches are paid the same, but budgets are not the same for each sport. All one has to do is think about all the equipment and transportation required for football or hockey (as well as ice time), then think about all the equipment needed for other sports such as soccer or basketball.

¯ According to the 2015-19 contract, football coaches for all coaching levels costs $27,053. Most sports do not have paid assistant coaches, yet varsity football has a paid head coach and two paid assistant coaches, totaling $13,147 (head coach receiving $5,237 and each of the two assistant coaches receiving $3,955). In comparison for another fall sport such as the boys and girls varsity soccer, coaches are each paid $4,069, with no assistant coaches. A much longer season like boys or girls basketball, with 20-plus games, makes $5,115 a season, with no assistant coaches. Anyone can access the contract through www.seethroughny.net. (Also of note is a 3 percent increase in coaching income each year of the contract.)

¯ The town of Harrietstown was responsible for upgrading the JV and varsity girls softball fields and did a wonderful job. They were in horrific condition. Again, there were holes and uneven areas, and in the rain there was standing water, which made the fields sloppy and caused games to have to be rescheduled.

¯ Within the last few years, the SL Women’s Softball League was informed that if they “stepped foot on the baseball field,” they’d no longer be able to use the district’s fields. This is an organization that offers an annual scholarship to a graduating senior each year.

¯ There have also been scheduling conflicts between the arts and sports, which have sometimes resulted in students having to choose between events, often being pressured to put sports above the arts.

I totally disagree with “members of the bargaining unit” having first crack at any and all coaching jobs. You could have a retired NFL, NHL, NBA or MLB player who wanted to coach but wouldn’t be awarded the coaching position if a teacher or district employee wanted it. A wise woman once said to me, take away the pay, and see who’s left!

We are a football community, and I get that. That was evident when the new football scoreboard was able to be purchased via fundraising in only a matter of weeks. In 2017, the boys football team lost its sectional game, having only two wins during the regular season. This sectional loss was on the front page of our local newspaper, yet the boys cross country team had an undefeated season and was on page 6. The community is highly supportive of football, and this clearly carries over into the district. It’s time to change that and give ALL sports a chance to be the best they can be. A good start would be evaluating field use in such a way that would allow more than one sport to be able to use the biggest, best field in the district!

I hope you will give this issue the attention it deserves. Thank you for your consideration.

Terry Buckley lives in Saranac Lake.