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Sports, teen social issues, personal growth & behavioral risks

Original post made by Paly Parent on Jan 14, 2014

Hi all,

As a parent with children at Paly, I wanted to share with the community some thoughts I hope will be helpful to other parents and ultimately to as many Paly youth as possible. The limited time I have to devote to this requires that this post be much shorter than I'd like it to be.

Stanford football has had a bunch of great seasons, and the 49ers are fighting their way through the playoffs yet again. Tied so closely as we are here in Palo Alto to those two teams, we're enjoying their success and our youth are increasingly in admiration - confirmed by us parents - of these local heroes.

Paly students becoming great athletes and achieving success in organized sports such as football, soccer, baseball, basketball, volleyball, water polo and swimming appears to most as a worthy goal and a great way to instill character and strong work habits in our kids, and the benefits they'll accrue in college admissions seem worth fighting for and attaining to give our kids their best change for a bright future.

Yet, the private leagues, private coaches, paid camps, tournaments and parental oversight many parents give their children has resulted in a situation where a small percentage of kids have such a tremendous and unnatural advantage (though perfectly legal and ethical) that the majority of Paly students are effectively boxed out of the opportunity to participate in and benefit from high school sports.

Further, those Paly students who form the 'jock' core through no fault of their own end up forming friendships and coalescing into social groups that the majority are excluded from despite attempts to integrate.

As a result, many, many good kids in their freshman and sophomore years are socially stranded, so to speak. Desperate to fit in, innately needing to be seen by their peers as people with worth, friends worth having and held in the warm embrace of friendship, that majority frenetically searches for social boats to take a seat in.

But which boats are available? Unfortunately, many of the lifeboats with open seats are captained by unsupervised children, children whose parents have neither the time nor conscience necessary to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Those boats are full of good kids, great kids, every one of them, but nonetheless petty theft, drugs and empty popular thug culture are what those kids and their weak leaders start to engage in, ever hopeful that they too will find a way to fit in, be cool and be accepted despite not being worthy of jock groups.

In my mind, at least, it's clear that there is a *direct* link between the *perhaps* well-intentioned - and certainly effective - efforts of some parents to actively manage, assist and bring more athletic success to their kids, and the monumental, incredibly disheartening damage inflicted on the majority of Paly youth who, for lack of those same advantages, find themselves in the wrong boats and sailing towards the wrong destinations.

I grew up identifying myself with my athletic success, but now know that who I really am has nothing to do with that success and never did. What's good in me is the love, care for and opportunity I bring to my family, and what's bad in me is where I fall short of that.

I humbly but earnestly submit that our adulation of our college and pro sports teams are no different than the false gods and idolatry so many religions cite, and that until we realize that, change our ways and push that knowledge forcefully throughout Palo Alto and down to our youth & school administration, we will be guilty of the tremendous amount of needless, permanent damage we'll have inflicted on our children.

I hope this resonates with some kindred parents, but what I really hope is that, should my ideas have merit, this becomes a discussion that grows, broadens, gathers other perspectives, takes on a life of its own and attracts many, many well-intentioned parents, students, faculty, college and pro athletes in our community so that we can be a city that wills its way into a better, brighter future for *all* of our children.

Thanks again for the opportunity to post here, thanks for reading, and a last word for any & all Paly students who read this:

- don't ever think you've any less worth than someone who's either innately or through parental involvement achieved more success than you in sports.

- if you feel any of the above-mentioned pain as you enter Paly, take comfort knowing that it's not you who's messed up. It's we parents, we administrators, we parents, we coaches and we college & pro athletes who have lost our way.

Comments (63)

Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 14, 2014 at 12:10 pm

This is so funny to me. We have zero interest in HS sports, club sports, whatever and that doesn't and didn't affect our lives at all. There are plenty of other ways to find success other than through high school athletics, thank God.


Posted by been there, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 12:48 pm

In middle school we heard that associating with the athletes was like insurance for social "success" I agree that there is a perception of this. I like the way you put it, it's one boat.

There are other boats, but the perception that one boat is better than another creates anxiety if some kids are unable to be in that boat, or have no boat. The athlete boat is not perfect either by the way, as you point out.

In a normal world, different boats and no boats is just life, but in the schools there is a push from colleges for kids to belong to the successful boats. They want to see that perfect picture of engaged, busy, do-it-all kids who actually may even belong to many boats. The bigger your school career in competition, the more credit you get.

It's not just athletics.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 14, 2014 at 2:53 pm

@former Paly parent - you bring up a good point, which is that it's as much the mindset of the parents as it is any larger group that determines whether or not the student feels it necessary to gain acceptance with sports, or with jocks.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 14, 2014 at 3:02 pm

We had two kids go through Paly. One a successful athlete and musician, the other who just went to school and rode horses in spare time. Interesting to note that the one who was an athlete/musician finds that the kids he/she sees when home on breaks are the ones from music, not athletics.

Both had a great experience at Paly with or without sports.

If you're really concerned about sports participation, have your children try out for some of Paly's no-cut sports. Track, cross country, swimming for example. Football is not the end-all when it comes being part of the sports crowd.


Posted by Paly Parent (different), a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 14, 2014 at 5:34 pm

This post shows a lot about how many people think - parents and students.

For those who are involved in sport, they can't imagine life without it. For those who try out, have spent all their middle school years and prior to trying out for the more elite Baseball/Basketball/Football teams, going to tryouts, camps, extra training, expensive coaching, with hopes of making high school sports teams, and then not making it, they feel they have already failed, and some of the other sports, soccer, lacrosse, etc. are not the same as the glamor sports when those glamor sports are the ones a student has been doing for years. For some, they can make the transition to another sport, but for others, they not only lose their favorite sport but also their sport buddies. There is no chance of getting involved in the sport outside of school for those who are not JV or V material.

Changing this mentality and enabling more students to take part in sport would be a good thing, but I can't see it happening. With the increased size of our high schools, there is still only going to be the same number of students playing Varsity sport and many, many more who don't make it.

For those interested in other activities, journalism, media, drama, music, etc. there are just as many supports for the "in crowd" to mix and hangout in and after school.

There are also some good clubs at school which are not connected to a class. Things like chess clubs, Frisbee clubs, etc. are all wholesome activities and some can foster good friendships outside school.

Otherwise, get involved with a Church or other faith based group that has youth programs. These youth groups tend to have good leadership and lots of fun activities and they meet other kids their own age who attend other schools too. A lot of people are put off church youth activities because of fear of predator leaders, but honestly these are quite rare compared to the number of youth programs around, and it is always a good idea to check with other parents or attend a meeting in order to vet these groups to make sure you feel comfortable with them. I might add, there is just as likely to be someone like this in charge of a sport as there is in a faith based activity.

Also, teach your kids by example and by good honest discussion about how to make appropriate friends and with appropriate activities. Take an interest in their friends, open your home to their friends and give them rides, get to know their friends. It is possible for kids to get through their teen years without getting involved with the "wrong" crowd or "questionable" activities.


Posted by What?, a resident of Ohlone School
on Jan 14, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Is Paly Parent saying that if you're not a jock at Paly, then you're a social loser?
Seriously? Is this Palo Alto, one of the most educated cities in the country, or an SEC town?
This sounds like a bad 80's movie.

I would hope that the Paly student body would appreciate kids with different talents and interests - the arts, intellectual pursuits, community service, cultural interests, etc.... there have to be multiple successful boats at Paly.

If not, then maybe Paly could learn more from the school across the street.


Posted by been there, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 9:33 pm

What?

Many schools have an issue with jocks and social status. America? I should have mentioned that the perception of jock success is mostly in middle school though. Fitting.

The comments about finding one's own path is what actually happens, but the competitive spirit is alive and well not just in athletics. The school across the street is not a stranger to that.

Competing (in anything) is what seems to elevate people, and exclude others. For better or for worst.


Posted by Sounds like sour grapes, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 14, 2014 at 11:36 pm

Original poster is way off base. There isn't much hierarchy at Paly. Sure, every teen would like to be in the "popular" group with the athletes, but it's no big deal if they aren't. There are plenty of middle-of-the road kids, and it's okay to be a nerd. I graduated from Paly in the early 80s and it was the same scene - jocks who are smart and nerds are accepted. PAUSD isn't the typical American school depicted in teen movies where there are two groups: dumb, rude jocks or nerds. My two Paly children often mention how nice people are at Paly, even the jocks.

As far as people using private coaches, camps, and clinics, it's still the student who has to put in the time - kudos to them for working hard. Clearly, there are only a limited number of spots on a team and if a student chooses to work hard for a place on the team or to improve his game, it's more admirable than complacency. Scathing remarks reflect jealousy and people need to accept that life is not fair; it's a disservice to children for them to be taught otherwise.


Posted by Academic, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 15, 2014 at 8:48 am

The same goes for academics: if you are not a 4.5 average GPA, certain cliques will refuse to speak to you other than to ask if you are retarded. Other cliques will ask if you are poor because you do not have 3-5 tutors ( used to be that tutors were for the academically challenged). Still other cliques will have no extra-curricular activities that are non-academic, and they spend all their time on homework....they think athleticism, "downtime", hobbies and after school activities with friends are harmful to the intellect, or have been convinced of this by their parents.

It all depends on which clique you are in, or more accurately, NOT in.


Posted by WOW, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 15, 2014 at 9:51 am

I cannot believe the Weekly puts this stuff on-line. Are you kidding me! This is a competitive world and nothing wrong with kids getting extra coaching or tutoring. Stop looking at what makes others happy or what others are doing and find inner happiness from within. Go Paly and people like this are why CCS is so watered down now with five divisions for every championship, so everyone can get a trophy. We have forgotten at times that failure or struggle is often what builds character, failure is an option.

If my kid does not make a team I will be there for them and be honest with them and tell them they probably need to work harder or maybe need to find a different sport.

Wow!!! I still cannot believe this was even put on-line, WOW!!!


Posted by been there, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:18 am

Sounds like sour grapes,

"There isn't much hierarchy at Paly"

There isn't but there is. If I had to choose, the big hierarchy issue is college track. Most colleges demand the jocks (academic, musical, the competitive kids, it seems everything is so, even volunteering). BUT this problem is the boat which everybody is in, kids know how difficult that is, so they are nice to each other.

Original poster,

To your concern you about "disheartening damage inflicted on the majority of Paly youth who, for lack of those same advantages, find themselves in the wrong boats and sailing towards the wrong destinations."

Even though it may not seem this way, all kids (parents) live in fear about the destination, and most get that there is no right or wrong. The known risk is if you have Ivy league as the right destination and community college as wrong, you may be frustrated if your kid is not the jock of jocks (socially there is a marginal curve - you don't get any cooler for doing even more). Absent the destination of theft and crime (not the highest social order anywhere), the best we can do is to be ok about all destinations, and kids excelling and working is good not bad.


Posted by Another former Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:56 am

Both of my kids went to Paly and have since graduated from college and taken on the challenges of Real Life. One kid was heavy into the arts (theater, creative writing, choir) and the other was a highly-decorated varsity athlete who played in college as well. Both have continued relationships with their Paly friends, but neither considered themselves "popular" or in with the top cliques while in high school.

My athletic offspring went on to earn an extremely technical college degree, and maintains friendships with academic pals, but coaches school and club teams after work. I haven't seen any of the friends from athletics in years. My artistic kid maintains friendships with choir and theater pals but not with any friends from class.

Neither felt socially out of it at Paly because success in our family is not measured by the number of parties one attends or by one's grades. They are both gainfully and happily employed these days, and are defining success on their own terms.

To the original poster, I suggest that you and your family work on alternative ways to define success. It's less about sports and cliques than it is about feeling satisfied. That's not an easy thing for a high school student to feel, but supporting that idea would serve your family better than aspiring to be part of the athletic cliques.


Posted by sports=money, a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2014 at 12:19 pm

In a society where we place the highest value and pay, overwhelmingly, the highest public salaries to athletic coaches (Web Link), it should come as no surprise that we begin to cull and separate the practitioners of these sports at an earlier and earlier age.

It's also worth considering that we place HUGE value on the professional athlete role model, yet there is barely any mention of the fact that close to 80% of ALL NFL players are broke within two years of leaving the league.

I doubt that we would hold up as an esteemed career track ANY other field that had that sort of stat for its practitioners.....


Posted by Sam, a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2014 at 12:23 pm

I believe the most successful adults in the future will be the those that had childhoods free of the extra coaching academic or athletic. I think this kind of extreme parenting of extra coaching is going to put those kids who had it at a disadvantage when it comes to creating new companies and bringing innovative problem solving to reach the top of the ladder. Sure some of these kids will go on to have a moderate amount of success. However the price of not looking at the total individual and instead placing them on the hamster wheel will prove to be detrimental to the psychological state of the adult they become. This in turn will effect the adult's success in whatever they choose to do. The next big success story isn't going to come out of silicon valley, gone are the kind of childhoods that Steve Jobs had. It will come from a place in the country or the world where a child was allowed to be a child. As a parent living in silicon valley and raising kids have to make a conscious effort to go against the grain of the society here to give my children a chance to have a childhood.

As to the original post, I believe the gist was that she is worried about the kids whose parents are not staying on top of things. There will always be bad parents and we can not blame the parenting zealots out there for their failures. I was kid who had no place in high school but I had good parents who taught me what was important which is why I am successful today,


Posted by another parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 12:34 pm

As a parent of a high school athlete, I couldn't agree more that there is an overemphasis on the sports culture. However, there is no reason to presume that the non-athletes cannot find happiness and success in other areas. The fact is that most of these student athletes will not compete at this level of athletics beyond high school.


Posted by Marc Vincenti, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 15, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Dear original poster, Paly Parent:

Thank you for this measured, tempered contribution to the local discussion about what's good for our teens. It is so well-expressed.

I'm especially taken by: "I grew up identifying myself with my athletic success, but now know that who I really am has nothing to do with that success and never did. What's good in me is the love, care for and opportunity I bring to my family, and what's bad in me is where I fall short of that."

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Marc Vincenti


Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 15, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Back when people were still talking about connectedness and stress in our high schools, in the aftermath of the suicide crisis, there were plans to have intramural sports at each school. This was to promote opportunities for connectedness, physical and mental well-being, noncompetitive fun, and so forth. To my knowledge, nothing happened.

We Can Do Better Palo Alto strongly supported the effort to build an IM sports program and spoke in favor of it at several board meetings. It appears to have fallen off the agenda given the below video that suggests that there are no such programs at Gunn (or Paly) at least as of last spring.

The Gunn ASB put together a video that they posted at the end of 2013 recounting their research into intramurals which showed that neither Gunn nor Paly has intramural sports but that at least at Gunn there was strong support for it among students. Web Link

In finding this video, I found this other video about academic stress at Gunn from 2012 that was heartbreaking to watch: Web Link

The stress video states that "over 50% of students [at Gunn] are getting less than 6 hours of sleep" which they attribute to excessive homework. There is a video of a Paly student who they interviewed talking about Paly's strong commitment to reducing homework and stress, and about how the district homework policy was being ignored.

These two videos made me realize how little was accomplished to make life better for our kids in the wake of the tragedies. The stress video was hard to watch. The highest area of stress for students was academics (homework) and the second highest area was lack of sleep. "The average amount of stress from workload was 3.6 on a scale of 1-5." Parents/friends and extracurriculars were behind both of those. It's a real shame.

Anyway, that sad situation is off-topic (apparently permanently). In terms of this thread, I think the IM sports idea was supposed to be implemented, it evidently never was, and it seems that it would help to address the original poster's issue.





Posted by Good choices, not excuses, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 15, 2014 at 3:24 pm


Sorry. But if a teenager views 1) "popular" varsity sports or 2) "petty theft, drugs and empty popular thug culture" as his/her only two choices for finding friendships and a sense of belonging, then something has gone WRONG in that child's life much earlier.

I also take issue with the idea that these teens "FIND themselves in the wrong boats and sailing in the wrong directions". These are CHOICES.

Personally, as a parent I have an expectation of my children that they will do their best to make good choices. And when that doesn't happen (as is true in life sometimes), I continue to expect that they will recognize the consequences of their less than wise choices. Viewing petty (probably not petty to the victim) thievery and drugs use as understandable alternatives to making the varsity team is setting a very low bar for expectations.

I know a lot of high schoolers, some athletic, some not. There are many different "boats" available in our community. There are many good sport opportunities in the high schools that are not try-outs based. There are clubs, there are community service groups. There are other kids out there making good, positive choices.

I agree that parents focusing on only one aspect of their child's success very early on can lead to a limited sense of self-worth. But let's not make ridiculous excuses for pre-adults making harmful, foolish choices. They've reached an age they need to take responsibility for their lives.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2014 at 10:12 am

@ sports=money: This is such a misleading info-graphic. For example, both the football and basketball coaches at UCLA are highly paid. However, the UCLA athletic department is 100% self-funded and makes a profit; no public money is used for any athletic department cost, including coaches' salaries.

@ Sam: I disagree in the sense that you're making a blanket statement. There are plenty of examples of kids/athletes/scholars who have had great success - who also benefited from sports camps or club teams, SAT tutors, scholastic tutors. The differentiator is what values the parents instill in their kids - including self-reliance, understanding limits, recognizing alternatives to helping you become successful in your endeavors.

Personally, I felt the decision to drop HS PE requirements to only 2 years was a big mistake. Opportunity lost in providing a means to still "play" and have fun.


Posted by New Paly parent, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 16, 2014 at 11:10 am

Thank you, Ms. Dauber, for your post. Paly students recently published a request for IM sports (see Viking Sports Mag p.10 at Web Link). Why aren't high school admins responding? There was also a recent article about the Frisbee club and the problem of finding playing field space. There definitely should be more opportunities for high school students to play for fun and build social connections (IM sports, lunchtime/after school games/ clubs? weekend or summer tournaments? open gym nights?), particularly since city sports and rec programs for teens seem so sparse.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Re IMs: lunch is too short (less than an hour). And the obvious reason why after school will not work is because the facilities are already under heavy usage by the schools' Varsity and JV teams.


Posted by Paly mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Not every facility is under heavy usage after school every single day. That's silly.


Posted by One more Paly parent, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 16, 2014 at 1:28 pm

"Those boats are full of good kids, great kids, every one of them, but nonetheless petty theft, drugs and empty popular thug culture are what those kids and their weak leaders start to engage in, ever hopeful that they too will find a way to fit in, be cool and be accepted despite not being worthy of jock groups. "

Where did you get that?
There are many serious groups and clubs at Paly, including clubs well supervised by adults and where kids engage in meaningful activities that have nothing to do with "petty theft, drugs and empty popular thug culture.

You don't seem to know the school well.

One example: the robotics club where my son has spent much of this life the last three year, very happily, doing interesting and meaningful things, not getting into drugs or any other kind of trouble, and being supervised by caring, responsible adults.

And that's just one, personal, example.

My other child who liked sports without being a star athlete was happy to be in non cut sports such as track and field.

If only people in Palo Alto started looking at what they have instead of thinking of the glass as half empty...


Posted by been there, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2014 at 1:38 pm

For Intramural sports, lunch is too short. And yes IM is about facilities (and staff)

Those asking about IM - the amount of time, energy, and resources which parents give on behalf of their kids and competitive sports is huge. For IM to happen, you'd need similar leadership from parents.

Must say, it is over the top to see the new Paly stadium, the manicured lawns for the cut sports and to then see the rest of the kids running on El Camino. The no-cut sports appear like an after-thought.

Maybe the new Paly Gym can help solve this problem, and allow for more no-cut programs. You won't get it with a theoretical ask though, parents would need to more pointedly put the schools to the test on how they divide resources between cut and no-cut.


Posted by New in town, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 16, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Another vote for intra-mural sports!!

I went to a large suburban High school (600+ per graduating class) and there were scant sporting opportunities for anyone outside the two-three dozen students drawn from all three grades to field most varsity and JV teams. It was an opportunity for fitness and to be part of a team that I sorely needed and missed out on in high school. Such a well-funded district surely can do more to provide for the majority of its students.


Posted by Steve, a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Even without IM sports, Football, Swimming, Track, Cross-Country, Wrestling are all non-cut sports. There's plenty of options for participation.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2014 at 3:38 pm

I know enough about Paly facilities (former coach) to be able to state...
FALL
Football field is utilized by Varsity and JV until after 7pm
Baseball/Softball outfield utilized by JV and Feshman football until 6pm
Football field is rented out to Pop Warner in the evenings - you can perhaps displace that group...but the school district likes the rent money.
Pool is utilized most mornings by a water polo team.
Pool is utilized by the 4 water polo teams until 8pm on weeknights
Big gym - varsity volleyball followed by JV volleyball until 7:30
Small gym - I don't know, but I do believe wrestling is using part of that facility.
Basketball starts working their way into both gyms by mid-October latest...that's 4 teams.
lacrosse / Soccer field is utilized until 7:30 and then rented out.
Cross-country runs everywhere.
baseball has fall practice occasionally. Can't speak for softball.

WINTER/SPRING
basketball until March/April. gyms open up in May. But since the advent of the new school calendar, that doesn't mean much.
Pool is utilized in winter months by pre-season swimming and water polo conditioning.
Pool utilized every morning before school and then every night until 7:30pm during swim season - which goes until the weekend before Memorial Weekend.
Baseball and softball have their fields until dark.
Soccer and Lacrosse totally absorbs the El Camino field
Track and Field takes over football stadium

Please tell me what facility at Paly is not fully utilized? Maybe the small gym at some small intervals?

The remarks about IM funding, support and staffing is a valid one. Athletics requests a $150 "donation" from each kid for each sport they play. A 3 sport kid pays $450/year. Those fees typically cover coaching stipends, officials and perhaps a portion of transportation. Plus the athletic boosters raise additional funds to cover uniforms, equipment, facility improvements. the boosters also cover the participation donation/fee for the kids who cannot afford it. And for many teams, parents provide transportation, staff concessions, work at the officials desk, etc. Just like athletics, IMs would have to be self-funded / self-sustaining.

I think the other issue is finding available and qualified coaches/supervisors.

As for no cut sports, I should amend my statement to say that just about all of the JV sports are no cut. Basketball maybe the exception due to space limitations. Varsity sports do cut - mainly to keep roster size manageable. But they will also cut a kid who just can't compete (or is woefully below varsity level skill, speed, ability, etc.) and will not get playing time an/or much attention during practice. To be blunt, varsity sports are not an AYSO/everyone plays environment.

As for coaches' stipends, it isn't very much. I know that for one of the "minor" sports, the total stipend is about $3500. That's $3500 to be shared by both the varsity and JV coaches. Do the math...when you add up time spent on preparation, practice, games, travel...the coaches are getting far below minimum hourly wages.

I'm not saying there shouldn't be IM sports. But what I am saying is that it is not that simple and there are some difficult obstacles to work around.


Posted by been there, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Crescent Park Dad has just given a very generous picture of the variables to consider, for anyone thinking about IM. The JV point is a good one, it is no-cut.

The problem I see is that there are legions of boys and girls who have been playing soccer, for example, K-8. but because of this "career" aspect to soccer (and the other cut sports), these perfectly capable players (who would be happy to keep playing with friends from school) are asked to suddenly find joy and skill in the no-cut sports which are not exactly low threshold type sports, wrestling and football ushers the girls out to dancing instead? swimming you have to get wet. There are obviously good reasons why these sports are cut sports (facilities) but really, logically, why should something as universal and simple as soccer or basketball or volleyball be cut sports?


Posted by If Only, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 16, 2014 at 10:14 pm

As a mom of an athlete who spent tons of money on private coaches, clinics, and camps (child was not a natural at the chosen sport), I can tell you that those who don't make the school team have the option to join a club team. However, club teams also have tryouts. My child always made it on the school and club teams but others who did not were not necessarily terrible players. This leaves a huge range of athletic abilities for IM sports: those who are somewhat good and those who are not athletic. Can they be successfully mixed? Doubt it.

Already noted is that there aren't enough facilities for IM sports, which answers the question of why soccer, volleyball, and basketball are cut sports. And if teams have no cuts, how can they possibly play everyone? They would play their top players. Even the athletes who are on the teams aren't guaranteed playing time, so how can a mediocre player expect play time?

AYSO actually has teams up to Grade 12 for those interested in IM sports.

This whole idea of IM sports is just a pipe dream that would never be successful. It's the same "everyone plays" complacent thinking that has forced teams to distribute participation trophies, which is a disservice to children.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2014 at 11:06 pm

@ Been There. Volleyball fields 3 teams (Frosh, JV, Var). Only 6 on the court. Typical rotations are perhaps 10 players. Roster is approximately 15.

why cut? Because anyone who is player #16 or higher will not see the court in a match and will not get in during practice. There's not enough time, spaces, coaches.


Posted by been there, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2014 at 11:28 pm

If Only,

" This leaves a huge range of athletic abilities for IM sports: those who are somewhat good and those who are not athletic. Can they be successfully mixed? "

The end goal is different for IM. It's still competing because people play to win but it's not as serious. No titles, or deadlines to be in shape by XYZ season start dates. Less practice, no practice, imagine that.

You bring up the main reason why IM is probably a pipe dream. Nobody can fathom doing sports any other way than the way they work now. If you watch the Gunn video on IM, there is a student comment, very honest, that IM could be a problem because it would be for the kids who were cut from a team, and nobody wants to be seen that way. It's kind of what you're saying - how could a moderately good player play with a "bad" player. The "stigma" must discourage everyone from even getting near it, including parents.

I disagree that IM is about complacent thinking that forces trophies on everyone. In a way, the private coaches, clinics and camps you mentioned are practically like giving a kid a personal trophy. Don't get me wrong, athletes work extremely hard, and the competitive teams are what they are. Just thinking, if IM has never been tried by Paly and Gunn, how can we know that it's sooo bad. We certainly have numbers with both schools to get a few teams going, some of the kids can work as refs, it would look good on college applications.


Posted by The Word of God, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 16, 2014 at 11:37 pm

Pathetic that the kids at both our high schools want this, that it was recommended as something that would increase connectedness and promote student well-being and all we have is this list of reasons it won't work, can't be done, etc. etc. drone drone blahbity blah. This is why we never do anything--people convince themselves that with PAUSD, As It Has Been So Shall It Ever Be. World Without End Amen.

I think we should make sure we have a creative solution that creates opportunities for the greatest number and prioritizes student health and well-being above all else. It's obvious, so whatever with the reams of excuses for why it can NEVER HAPPEN. It could happen if there was a will to make it happen.


Posted by Paly Parent (different, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 16, 2014 at 11:48 pm

There are many ways that IM could work if it was wanted. They manage to have staff/student games at lunch time, they are able to have rallies during spirit week. They could be innovative if they wanted to.

Lunch time could be longer.

Games could be played on the grass quad.

Handicap system could be an equalizer.

House system (like house quidditch games in Harry Potter) could be a way to divide rather than grade level.

If student activities panel put their thinking caps on they could get their heads around this and come up with some great ideas.

This is a good and useful discussion, and it is about time some positive thinking along practical lines was done. Thanks to all who are contributing to the discussion.


Posted by iSez, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 17, 2014 at 12:19 am

iSez is a registered user.

Re: Paly Parent's posting:

Lunch time cannot be longer because . . . those on the school teams have to leave school during 7th period for their games . . . the same reason why our kids don't have a later starting time for school.

No one would want to play games on the quad because it's like a fishbowl.

If it's any indication of how many would play sports at lunch . . . the Paly gym and soccer/LAX fields are open during lunch but only a small amount of students play. Many student walk to T & C for the 40-minute lunch, which leaves no time to play sports. Some students at Jordan played sports during lunch.

With the amount of homework our children have, I doubt the students want to play IM after school. Most kids these days connect through technology instead.


Posted by Word of God, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 17, 2014 at 12:33 am

If the same "can't do" spirit pervaded the work life of the fathers of these same children there would be no Google, no Apple, no facebook, no Nvidia, no nothing that generated all the money that supports these "excellent" schools in the first place. Listen Eyore, Stanford has gooddamn IM sports. Google has IM sports. I think your 10th grader can too.


Posted by iSez, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 17, 2014 at 1:39 am

iSez is a registered user.

Oh, wow, "Word of", how can you possibly compare teenagers to college students and adults? They are totally different lives. Image and academics are big issues in high school and the teen years are awkward immaturity. That's PAUSD's whole problem - they think our teenagers are adults and give an adult homework load to them and overprepare them for college. Our students are not adults.

Those pro-IM should volunteer and see what happens instead of spouting off here, waiting for someone else to do it.


Posted by coach, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 17, 2014 at 1:57 am

This subject has far deeper roots than High school. I grew up playing at the park/school without parental guidance or structure with whoever was at the park/school at that time. For most kids, this is not promoted anymore by parents, mainly out of fear. There are outdoor basketball courts with glass backboards at Paly that are not used to a great extent by students. There is a grass field in the quad open every day after school for Frisbee etc... . There is peers park a short walk from the high school that has open space for any sport that you could want to play. It is funny to me to hear that we need to offer a structured program for high school students such as IM to do something that should be fun and as easy as saying, want to play a game? But we as parents have not taught our children how to do that. Instead we look to blame this on other factors.


Posted by Paly Parent (different, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 17, 2014 at 6:25 am

Coach

Interesting point.

My kids tried to go to the local park with a couple of friends to play pick up games at weekends or after school, or even during the summer. There were so many soccer/littleleage practices or camps that there was no room and if they played with a ball near the playgrounds, the parents of the little kids shouted at them to go away as they were afraid that their kids would get hit, knocked over (probably rightly so). They would come home telling me that there's no space in the parks for them to have fun.

Also, it is hard for kids these days to have pick up games. They are so used to parents/coaches organizing them with practices, times,equipment, snack rotas, carpools, that all they have to do for sport at elementary age is wait for a parent to drive them, turn up and wait for a coach to tell them what to do that boredom has never given them the need to work it out for themselves. My kids tried because I booted them out of the house but I was one of the few. Sad.


Posted by Sam, a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2014 at 10:56 am

It's a pity that this debate over IM is even happening. It used to be that kids organized themselves to play sports after school. Who has time for that when mom and dad have covered every inch of space having you coached in one sport all year around, tutored and coached academically on top of hours of homework? When I was a kid we played sports in the street, as did many others in my generation who are now running the world inventing new technologies and creating their own companies. What would Silicon Valley be now if generation X and baby boomers had helicopter parents and were scheduled around the clock with athletics and academics?

Crescentparkdad- I acknowledged it was a blanket statement by saying sure some of the kids will go on to do well. Most of these kids will go on to moderate success but will have paid a large psychological fee because their misguided parents believed that by adding coaching will lead their kids to extraordinary lives in the likes of Steve Jobs or Buster Posey. I have seen too many burnt out kids and adults to believe that this rush to greatness (which ultimately leads most to mediocrity) is healthy. Perhaps my views are different because I was only beginning to have my family when the rash of suicides gripped Palo Alto. I agree with you that it depends on the parents, but I think your grounding rationale based on my experiences with other parents is in the minority.


Posted by Sam, a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2014 at 11:02 am

Palyparent- that is too bad that there aren't any open fields. We are very lucky to have several open parks and schools available the problem that we encounter is that the parents have either filled up the kids' schedules or are too paranoid to let their kids out of the house to play, even though we live in one of the safest cities in the nation.


Posted by been there, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Sam,

"pity that this debate over IM is even happening. It used to be that kids organized themselves to play sports after school. Who has time for that when mom and dad have covered every inch of space?"

IM being something which in theory is about kids playing, and why on earth should that be organized.

By the way, can we keep the conversation to High School? I think the original poster referred this to High School. That means that whoever is posting should at least know Paly or Gunn well enough.

But, just to put a few things to rest Sam. No need to be sarcastic about how the organized parenting came about. It is the college track game. Somebody (not parents) decided that to get into college you need to have an instrument, three sports, a community service award, some number of AP's, sky high SAT/ACT scores, and good grades. Do the math, there is no time in the life of a normal person to do this, but somehow some kids do it.

Not all parents play this game. MOST parents do not play this game but the schools are organized around this system, and oddly enough the "winners" are those who have this organization to a science. The other cause I would give to hyper-organized schedules is working families. If you are a working parent, what do you prefer - that your kid is with the tutor, the coach, and his piano teacher, or at the park? I'm not saying any of this is good, it just IS that way.

Now, the issue with sports. Somebody mentioned that many of the players who are on the teams do not continue to play in college but actually their being in school sports teams was an asset to get into college. It was also an asset for their health and well being, they got to make friends through these teams, what M. Dauber calls connectedness.

Seems ironic that the parents who were LEAST able to help their kids make the teams are the ones accused of being hyper organized. This petty fight goes on and on. Original poster has a point "It's we parents, we administrators, we parents, we coaches and we college & pro athletes who have lost our way."

If anyone believes in the value of sports, and the value of playing for young people, you would expect that IM was not some martian proposition.

I'd add that there is an equity issue. Students who qualify for school sports get the prize of putting that on college applications - played soccer 4 years. Other have to drop soccer, volleyball, basketball whatever at grade 10. Big mark on their forehead. Even colleges would probably care less that someone played IM, it's just nice that a kid did that. And though this is not about college (and yet it IS for competitive sports) saying you played soccer in a park for four years?

Anyone now suggesting to try robotics instead, theater or fly fishing. That's not the same as IM.


Posted by been there, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2014 at 4:36 pm


Of course if people will make IM for the ones "who could not make it", with made-up games on the quad, or give them fields to play at lunch (instead of eating) or 10 pm on Sundays, no chance.

How about taking turns with the competitive sports schedules?


Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 17, 2014 at 4:52 pm

@been there, I agree with your comments.

I would like to add that the students themselves are requesting an intra-mural sports program. Paly students wrote an editorial in their sports magazine asking for it. Gunn ASB did a video interviewing students asking for it. I am not sure why we would not extend ourselves to give students something that they are asking for. Adult arguments about how they already have what they need seem to be a bit flat since one would guess that these students are telling us that what they currently have does not meet their needs.

The benefits to an intra-mural program are many. One of these is that those students who are not connected to others might not have friends to go play in the park with. They might not have a group, might not belong. They might be lonely and isolated. It's those kids, who might not be able to make a group for themselves who are the most aided by organized intramural programs. There are other non-sports equivalent programs, such as Model UN and YNG at the YMCA, or YCS. Yes you could go to to the highway and pick up trash by yourself but it would serve the purpose of connectedness to do with with YCS. Same with IM.

The students want it and think it would help them to be fit, be healthy, get those endorphins going, make friends, and so forth. What happened to the developmental assets? I know there's 41 of them and it's really hard to organize anything around 41 of something, but here's one concrete thing you could actually do that would actually "build" a ton of "assets."

Youth are watching adults talk out of one side of their mouths about "listening to youth" and "valuing youth," and then seeing that when they ask for things (less homework, better counseling, intramural sports) it doesn't happen.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 17, 2014 at 5:30 pm

"Taking turns with the competitive sports schedules"? No, there is a reason why they are called "competitive." Does anyone realize the sacrifice our athletes make to play on the Paly teams? Not a lot of time for studying or taking AP classes. Sure, there are some talented ones who can handle both with excellence, but not the majority. Those who are more cerebral are taking the advanced classes and probably don't care about playing sports because they don't have the time.


Posted by been there, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Resident,

"Taking turns with the competitive sports schedules"? No, there is a reason why they are called "competitive."

When I said taking turns, I did not imagine taking turns at being competitive. IM does not need to be tied to a season, or a particular league's rules. No uniforms, no traveling like the other sports, no set practices. It would require adult supervision, but nowhere near the level of competitive sports - even better, it's a leadership opportunity for the older kids. There are extremely capable 11th, 12th graders who can coach, help out with IM.

Why couldn't the EL Camino fields at full capacity in the WInter and Spring not be more available for couple of times a week IM soccer in the Fall? Basketball isn't played until Winter either is it? How can these facilities not be shared during a competitive sport's off-season?

Whoever mentioned AYSO, that is not the same either, compared to playing a sport for fun with a bunch of kids from your own high school, on your own school's fields.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 17, 2014 at 11:48 pm

Volleyball uses the gyms in the fall. Then basketball. In theory the gyms would open up after basketball finishes in aApril.


Posted by iSez, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 18, 2014 at 12:22 am

iSez is a registered user.

Been There, I suggest you start the IM program so you can have your questions answered and your heart content. There are no facilities available for IM. The soccer/lacrosse field is used in the fall for a lacrosse club team.

And even though "students asked for IM", what percentage of students asked for it? There was no poll that I've heard of. Twenty students surrounding the author of the article isn't enough to have an IM program. Again. someone should just start the program and see if it's possible and successful instead of spending time posting arguments here.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 18, 2014 at 5:56 am

Regularly scheduled student activities take priority over usage/rentals by non-PAUSD groups, such as a club lacrosse team. But the students would have to commit to the activity and would need to do some advance planning ahead of the annual rental agreements.


Posted by been there, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2014 at 7:59 am

An individual parent or group of parents asking for something usually gets resistance, unless it's an insider or major PIE donor. Students asking for something may help, but it is probably up to the High School Principals and their Athletic departments to make IM happen.

If the issue is staff, isn't the district flush with money right now and enrichment what we donate to PIE for? If the issue is facilities, how can we be renting out and making money off the soccer fields in the Fall? Or building multi million dollar new gyms only for competitive sports? These sports serve a fraction of the kids - as someone mentioned some kids on the teams don't get that much playing time, so the facilities are for a fraction of a fraction of school.

Asking the students to commit and build IM themselves is too much to ask. Sold right, they will come.

This is a link for Stanford IM Web Link

Weekly,

As these gyms are being built, you may consider doing a story on how IM could work at Paly and Gunn.


Posted by Shaking Head, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Crescent Park Dad is correct, that school events should take priority, however, the club lacrosse team does have connections to Paly, as it was started by a Paly dad and his teams train the lacrosse players who eventually play on their school teams and continue to play for his club during off season. In fact, he was the person who brought lacrosse to Paly.

Also, as CPD notes, intramurals need some sort of commitment, which is unlikely ("I have a test", "I'm sick," "I don't feel like playing today", "I'd rather do something else"). Our competitive athletes can't use such excuses.

Been There should try to start the program and defy the naysayers here.


Posted by Mary, a resident of Southgate
on Jan 18, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Connectedness is always a problem in school and sports cannot be blamed. Intramurals isn't the answer because it's voluntary. Something during school hours, such as during P.E. or Advisory for students to mingle is helpful. Why don't they eliminate the PAUSD Living Skills requirement and just teach it to freshman and sophomores during Advisory? They could have learning activities and have students pair up with different students each time.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 18, 2014 at 5:50 pm

There could be an opportunity for some limited IM sport. Kickball? Flag football? Ultimate Frisbee? You'd have to start with just one sport and see if it took. I'm a little skeptical, esp since the kids are so busy and there are so many clubs and activities. But we have a million clubs, so this could be essentially a club activity that requires some field time.

Googling around, there seem to be a few (ok, very few) high schools that offer IMs - typically larger than ours, which makes sense given that you need a lot of kids to have enough for an IM program. For those who point to college programs, keep in mind how much bigger most colleges are than our high schools, and how IM's are typically formed around residential units - high school is different.


Posted by Paly Alum '80, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 18, 2014 at 8:06 pm

Some good points here on why intramural sports wouldn't work. Although some don't care to accept it, life has changed for our students. Back in the day, we had so much more free time that we skateboarded or biked all over Palo Alto and returned home at night. There wasn't much on TV and the only activities were the basic sports. There were no computers, videos or gaming. The AP classes and regular lane classes weren't as challenging. Our students now simply don't have enough extra time for intramural sports because of the school rigor, technology, and other opportunities available now, which were unavailable back in the 70s and 80s.


Posted by Because I said so, that's why!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 18, 2014 at 8:26 pm

And the reason the kids are asking for it is that...?


Posted by been there, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2014 at 9:02 pm

@Fred,

"there seem to be a few (ok, very few) high schools that offer IMs - typically larger than ours, which makes sense given that you need a lot of kids to have enough for an IM program."

2012-2013 Enrollment for Gunn and Paly together is 3,850 (each near 2000). Stanford Undergraduate 6,980. PAUSD has numbers.

IM is like a club activity but it's really much more than that. The data on exercise for youth social emotional well being is too compelling to think it only belongs in competitive sports. Borrowing from Stanford's website,there is also a connection between sports and academic success.

..."physical activity is valuable for its own sake and vigorous exercise is complimentary to the educational purposes" of the school (Web Link)

I agree any sport or physical activity is a good start, but is that different than signing up for wrestling? Bluntly, I think that the high school's open fields should be available to students after school, to do whatever they chose to do. As I posted before, legions in Palo Alto have played soccer or basketball before, had PE since kindergarten, Palo Alto kids are no slouches, they could get some games going.

When we were asked to approve the school bond money, were we thinking it was to upgrade fields and gyms to rent them out?

@Mary,

"Intramurals isn't the answer because it's voluntary. Something during school hours, such as during P.E. or Advisory for students to mingle is helpful. Why don't they eliminate the PAUSD Living Skills requirement and just teach it to freshman and sophomores during Advisory?"

IM is a like a club in that it's voluntary but kids do clubs because they want to, and being in a club also looks good on college applications (that appeal works for the competitive sports). IM would look good for college applications too. PE btw is mandatory for freshman and sophomores.


@Shaking head

"Been There should try to start the program and defy the naysayers here."

The people who need to make decisions about IM are aware of all this. Ask them why they don't do anything about it.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 18, 2014 at 10:36 pm

@been there - hmm, 1900 at a campus vs. 7000 at Stanford - that doesn't seem quite comparable. It would up the degree of difficulty a fair bit if you try to have games between campuses. But like I said, it might still take, hard to say.


Posted by iSez, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 18, 2014 at 10:59 pm

iSez is a registered user.

I love the way people complain about things here and hope that others listen to them and act upon it. IM would never work, and everyone here has proved it. Game over.


Posted by been there, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2014 at 9:14 am

Fred,

The only risk I see with IM is that it would work too well. If you've seen Spirit week at Paly, kids like to play games, cheer each other on. Worth looking at some of the videos.

Isez,

IM may not have been what the original poster had in mind actually. It appears his/her original concern was the adulation of sports stars and the advantage (private coaches, private camps, club sports) of some to get into the school teams. I see nothing wrong with either of these.

The conversation evolved into IM. My point has been that IM will not work if the prism is competitive sports.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 19, 2014 at 9:29 am

I have an idea...

Why not investigate whether the PE department would be willing to add a class focused on IMs? The facilities are available during the school day...kids get credit as well. Obviously kids would still need to fulfill their PE requirements...swimming proficiency, etc. The IM class would be a "bonus" offering to the kids who want to have extra PE. Juniors and Seniors come to mind as they'll have completed their PE credits.


Posted by been there, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2014 at 10:17 am

Crescent Park Dad,

It's a start, and I would bet a class would fill up, but at some point the issue of facilities begs the question about why IM Juniors and Seniors would need to replace academic and college track courses during their school day, whereas the competitive athletes do not. In Freshman and Sophomore year, athletes can already fulfill the PE credit with their sport, so they already have gotten extra space for academic courses in those grades.

Kids play for sport and fun, but the athletes are also doing it for college apps, and getting due credit after school. Not sure why the kids who can use the extra exercise and the sport should not get credit for this passion as an extracurricular if there are facilities available, just currently rented to private clubs which serve the competitive sports. IM in addition has some great leadership opportunities for getting 9th and 10th graders who do not join JV but are moderately interested in playing and being active.

While giving credit to competitive sports is a good thing, this form of adulation of competitive sports (possibly conflicting use of facilities) for a public school is not ideal. Maybe the Athletic directors are not the ones who will change the equity issue, or the PE teachers which can be one and the same as the competitive sport coaches, and run the private camps. It's not objective enough, and this is impacting students in all grade levels for different reasons.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 19, 2014 at 12:09 pm

@been there - your confidence doesn't exactly substitute for data. As the saying goes, the two most common phrases in business are "trust me" and "I'm sorry" ;-) The fact that most other high schools don't have IM programs (vs. most colleges which do I imagine) suggests sticking points, either in student demand or logistics of supply.

I agree about spirit week enthusiasm (no need for videos; I've attended) though not sure how it translates into IM - a weekly small-scale kickball /frisbee/ soccer game is not quite the same as a school-wide tug of war.

My guess is that it probably could find a place, if there were an enthusiastic sponsor/teacher and a core group of kids actively recruiting others - similar to many school clubs / activities. Not a cure-all for anything, but worth a pilot of there is a critical mass of kids looking for it.


Posted by Former coach, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 19, 2014 at 3:51 pm

" IM would look good for college applications too."

I would doubt that. In fact, in terms of college entrance athletics specifically only helps if you are a recruitable athlete. If not, participating in a sport (either school or club) is just another activity. Participation in intramurals would be no different than joining pick-up games at the Y.


Posted by Mom of Senior, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 19, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Completely agree with "Former coach" that IM sports don't count for much on college applications. Although being on the school team carries some weight, showing more dedication than IM sports or club teams. Having IM sports during P.E. would be an epic failure - most 11th and 12th graders would laugh it off and refuse to be in classes with predominately underclassmen. Plus, taking P.E. in those years when not mandated would appear as a slacker to colleges.

It's not the public school's duty to find friends for the students. Small, private schools probably have more hand-holding. The parents should be engaged and find extracurriculars for their children, not look to the school to solve every issue of their child.


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