Sports Plagued by Lack of Participation

At the school, one of the only means by which students can un-liquefy their brains after seven hours of class is through the unique combination of adrenaline, endorphins, sweat and excitement that makes a school sports game. For many, the blue-clad Eagles are the only splashes of color in our otherwise dull, gray and monotonous lives.
However, some believe that sports tradition is on the wane. Compared to years past, stands, rosters and coaching staffs for many sports teams are relatively empty.
“We started the season with about 35 players and ended up with less than 30,” varsity football head coach Bill Waggoner said. “Teams we played against had 40 to 60 players.”
According to track co-head coach Gerri Baldwin, the track team is “down about 25 athletes this year.”
The coaches cite several key reasons for why turnout is so low, perhaps the most important of which is coaching turnover, which has plagued many teams this year.
“What really hurts for the sprinters, hurdlers and jumpers is the lack of consistency in the coaching staff. We have had a different jumping coach every year for the past four years,” Baldwin said.
On the other hand, the majority of the school’s competitive teams have had a high level of consistency in the program. Coaches Sandy Whitol and Erin Montoya of the baseball and girl’s soccer teams (both of which have recently won CCS championships) have held their positions for 12 and 4 years, respectively.
Waggoner, who took over for the football team as its fourth head coach in five years, agreed with Baldwin, stating “having consistency in the program [and] players knowing what will be expected of them” is crucial in motivating athletes to participate. There is also always a transition period during which teams aren’t very good, which caused several players not to come out for the football team this year.
All school teams must also deal with the fact that student athletes have many commitments they must balance, ranging from schoolwork and college woes to other sports. Especially for sports such as track, where athletes often play other sports, school teams can suffer in terms of both the turnout and commitment of players.
“I think the other two major factors are athletes doing sports year round and all [the fact they’re all] participants in all of the other programs offered at the school: music, choir, etc,” Baldwin said.
School teams need players who can focus on that single sport and either play club or work out with the school team year round. For example, it is common for soccer players to compete on club teams and for water polo players to stay in shape by competing on the swim team. The track team has this same kind of year-round training for distance runners, through cross country, but it no longer has a year-round program for the other events.
“Julia [Widstrand] had a year round track club committed to the sport,” Plumer said. “That core group has gone away and graduated, [and there is] no one replacing them.”
This core group included athletes like ’07 Eric Hersey and ’06 Dana McDaniel, who were among the fastest and most versatile athletes in CCS and were crucial to morale and enthusiasm as team leaders. Both went on to run at the college level and hold school records.
The football team also has an off-season training regimen. However, poor attendance has crippled this effort in recent years.
The situation is also tough for gymnastics, whose club season coincides directly with the school season. Gymnasts are ineligible for the school team if they are competing for a club team; however, according to gymnastics coach Lina Slack, gymnasts need club experience to compete at the varsity level. This leaves the school team with barely a handful of eligible gymnasts who have the skills to compete varsity.
“I guess naturally you have a limited number of possible gymnasts,” Slack said. Slack added that the SCVAL even had to lower the minimum number of gymnasts to score points in a meet from five to four because of this issue.
The coaches believe that all the teams are also suffering from a lack of visibility and school spirit.
“There really has never been a large turn out of students to track meets,” Baldwin said. “Actually that includes softball, baseball, gymnastics, etc.”
Waggoner agreed, saying that he hopes to help restore the tradition of community and enthusiasm that the school had when he attended.
“The school spirit is much lower than it was when I went to Los Altos,” Waggoner said. “We need to help bring that up. There needs to be Pep rallies and excitement about the football team.”
Sports are the “glories” of our high school years; they give all of us pride, memories and a real reason to be here. In return, those of us who can dribble, tackle and serve have a responsibility to invest our time and effort in them, and keep them alive to preserve not only our own sanity, but that of future classes as well.