Budget cuts threaten JV sports, coaching

By Sarah Reitzes News Editor

Later this month, the Montgomery County Council will vote on a proposal to cut $1 million of the approximately $7 million budgeted for MCPS athletics. These cuts could include the elimination of JV cheerleading squads and coed volleyball teams in county high schools, the shortening of all JV seasons by two to four games per team, and the shortening of the boys volleyball season by two games.

 

MCPS officials see these cuts as necessary due to the County’s current economic state. They have also recommended that two assistant coaching positions, one for outdoor track and one for football, be cut and that all teams have three fewer practices each season.

 

“I know that with the poor economy and very tough budget, there will have to be cuts somewhere,” Principal Joan Benz said. “I would love to keep all of the teams that we have, especially because these are the teams that help people to refine skills.”

 

According to head JV cheerleading coach Rebecca Sutton, of the 80 girls who usually try out for cheerleading each year, 30 make the Varsity squad, 20 make the JV squad and 30 are cut. If the JV squad were eliminated, around 50 girls would be cut from cheerleading.

 

“Cutting 50 girls, that’s just not right,” Sutton said. “It really upsets me that that’s a possibility.”

 

The JV cheerleading squad allows Varsity hopefuls to learn and refine skills while also showing support for other CHS JV athletes by cheering at their games and competitions. This year, the squad developed its own showcase routine as well.

 

“I think it’s so important to have JV because then all these other girls who aren’t on varsity level can build up and progress and then they can be on varsity level,” said sophomore Hanifah Mohamad, who was a Varsity cheerleader this year and a JV cheerleader the year before. “On JV you get to work more. It just made me feel ready.”

 

According to coed volleyball coach Michael Endler, the elimination of coed volleyball would be equally detrimental to student athletes.

 

“It’s a great sport,” Endler said. “There are very few opportunities that boys and girls have to play together in a sport. It gives them a whole new perspective.”

 

Endler sees coed volleyball as a way to improve gender equality in high schools. Most Maryland school districts do not have coed volleyball teams.

 

“There’s a county championship and that’s as far as it goes,” Endler said. “That’s the main reason why it’s expendable. It’s a great opportunity for the kids, and I really don’t think it’s going to save the county that much money.”

Instead of cutting sports teams, Endler suggests raising the extracurricular activity fee as a means of reducing the athletic budget. Sutton agrees that budget cuts should not limit student opportunities.

 

“Keep the programs that involve students,” Sutton said. “I would make cuts in the areas that least impact students directly.”

 

According to athletic director Dave Kelley, there are few areas in MCPS athletics that can afford to lose funding.

 

“There’s not a lot of fluff in the budget,” Kelley said. “If the county looked at cutting transportation, that could help.”

 

According to Kelley, most CHS teams use $200 to $300 worth of buses each week. If MCPS cut transportation, then athletes would have to carpool to games and competitions.

 

According to the MCPS website, if JV cheerleading is cut, schools will have the option of enlarging their varsity squads to compensate. According to Sutton, if CHS enlarges its varsity squad, all members will still be required to compete, regardless of their skill levels.

 

“If a team size becomes too large, everybody suffers in a certain respect,” said William G. Beattie, MCPS Director of System-wide Athletics. “Individual students get less attention in practices, playing time is compromised and the team as a whole often suffers’.”

 

Kelley hopes that MCPS will find alternative ways to cut back on spending.

 

“I’d hate to see us lose anything because the way the school system works, once it’s gone it takes a long time before it comes back,” Kelley said. “I would hate to lose any teams or coaching positions.”

 

CHS athletes such as senior coed volleyball player Wendy Zhao also hope that budget problems will not force MCPS to limit athletic opportunities for students.

 

“A lot of girls would not have a chance to practice in the off-season and a lot of boys would not be able to play, since the boys team does not have JV,” Zhao said.