Fletcher: Proactive approach to funding sports

I’ve been all over the eastern part of the country in the last 10 days.

First I went to Rhode Island with the sail boat to both get our butts kicked and six staples in my head as the boom was moving faster than my body one afternoon on the water.

Next it was onto West Virginia to shoot sporting clays, where I recorded my best score ever. Between the two trips, life sort of averaged out.

Whether it is hunting or fishing, skiing or tennis – many of us enjoy sports. Others just enjoy biking, jogging or trips to the gym to stay exercising and keeping in good physical shape.

For many of us what we enjoy today via physical activity stems from participation in sports in our high school years. Large numbers of us are playing golf, tennis, baseball and hockey while others are downhill or cross country skiing.

I never was a very good high school athlete but since the boarding school I attended required that we all play some sport each season, I tried a number of different ones. For me, skiing was one I enjoyed most. I picked up shooting from my parents who were bird hunters and sailing from summer vacation days spent at Long Lake.

For many, the high school years playing sports were “glory days” indeed as they reminisce about games long ago. Any mention of great coaches from the area such as Bob Devaney or Tony Byers and his state championship hockey teams still inspires pride and enthusiasm.

So what does this have to do with economics, the normal focus of this conversation every week? We are going to find that thread right now.

School funding in Michigan is in a time of flux these days. Less state money is flowing to many school districts and in communities that have tried passing local millages, the success rate has been minimal at best. Tough decisions loom on the horizon for many districts, most of which have at least agonized over numerous cuts already. One of the casualties many districts have made has been athletic funding. Lucky for us that Tim Wedge is the athletic director at Alpena High.

Wedge has suggested residents of the Alpena school district might want to start a fund with the Community Foundation of Northeast Michigan for the support of athletics. Money from the fund could supplement the district athletic budget, which almost certainly will be faced with decreasing revenue in the future.

I fully support such a proactive idea for contributory donations to help maintain the level of athletic funding districts need to keep students in sports. This would be supplementary to, not in lieu of, district funding.

I didn’t play sports in Alpena but I know, from listening to others how important these experiences were to many. For some it was the highlight of their high school years. For others, it was the most cherished memory of their lives.

At my high school the motto was “Pro vita no pro schola discimus.” That is Latin for “learning is not just for school, but for life.” I think that there’s a truth there. Certainly athletics helps teach some that preparation for life.

If the fund gets started it could offer you the opportunity to give a high school student an experience that might last them a lifetime.

That, in my mind, would be not only a great value but a worthy opportunity.