Editorial – Equal Equity In Sports

editorial-logo3Does there come a time when a politician simply outstays their ability to grow and change? The answer to that question was abundantly clear at last week’s school board meeting. This was the first meeting under the direction of the new director of school, Dr. Shane Johnston, and I have to say that I really like the new meeting format. Johnston provided the school board with information that he considered important, including everything from an overview of academics to building concerns. It was clear during the meeting that Johnston does not have a problem taking charge of the floor and that is a good thing. It is reassuring that he appears to have his own agenda instead of inheriting one from the previous infrastructure.

What was also clear in the Thursday evening called meeting and work session is that one school board member appears to be out of step with the idea of equality in men and w omen’s sports. Representatives from the JCHS Girls Soccer Team were on hand to plead their case for some much needed attention to the Lady Patriot’s facilities and practice field. Currently, games are played on the JCHS football field but the team has to leave campus everyday to practice their sport. While soccer is a relatively new sport in parts of the south where the Friday Night Lights shine only on football, it is the fastest growing sport in the world and that includes our little part of it. It is a wonderful sport for women and men, though only the girl’s team spends any real amount of time practicing at the former Ruritan Park. For those that have not been to the park, which is the current location for the Boys and Girls Club, there are significant problems with the JCHS Lady Patriots practicing and scrimmaging at that location.

Number one is that there are no bathroom facilities that the team is allowed to use. The Boys and Girls Club will not let the team into the building to use the facilities, even though the property was gifted to the Boys and Girls Club by the County Commission. Meaning, the tax payers, the same tax payers that fund the schools and may have daughters or granddaughters or friends on the Lady Patriots Soccer Team, gifted property to an organization that does not appear to be intent on doing what is in the best interest of ALL the children in Jefferson County. Because, sending teenage girls into the woods to use the bathroom is not in the best interest of those girls. On the rare occasion that one of the girls gets into the facility to use the rest room, it is uncomfortable at best. Beyond the rest room issue, there is no place for the team to find refuge from dangerous weather. Young team members have to hope that there is enough car space with driving members of the team that they can wait out the storms in the car. If not, they have no place to go because they can’t go in the Boys and Girl’s Club building. The girls team also has no functional locker room to change clothes and many are forced to change in the parking lot of the Boys and Girls Club which is simply not acceptable by anyone’s standards. Young team members “catch a ride” from older team members to the practice facility, meaning student drivers are transporting other students off of campus. And then there is the embarrassment factor. I attended a recent scrimmage at the practice field at the current Boys and Girls Club location and the team played very well. The facility grounds were littered with trash and exposed wires and pipe. The Boys and Girls Club finally, after a few phone calls, let the opposing players in to use the restroom but they would not let parents into the facility. Needless to say, the opposing team’s entourage was not impressed with the garbage, the state of the field or the hospitality-none of which was the fault of the our team or our coach.

When the presentation was made to the school board to find some relief for the team short term and if possible a larger, better fix in the future only one school board member seemed to totally miss the point. Exiting Board Member Jarnigan demanded to know why they were just now hearing about this and what is different now than in the past with heavy insinuation that if it was good enough before it should be good enough now. He did not appear to be concerned with bathrooms or safety or the inequity of the Lady Patriots being booted from the weight room and given the worst of the worst of locker rooms while funds are poured into the traditionally male dominated sports. All the other school board members appeared to be concerned for the safety of the student athletes and ready to look at a fix for the team. Dr. Johnston made it clear that the situation will be addressed and appeared distressed at the plight of the team. The school system has provided a port a potty for the field. I have to wonder, since the team pays someone $800 for use of the field ( which is primarily used for fall/w omen’s season because the men’s team plays in the spring and does not conflict with football) just what they are getting for their $800. The tax payers donate between $60,000 and $80,000 per year to the Boys and Girls Club in addition to providing the facility and the occasional bus donation. Is that not worth bathroom privileges and shelter from storms?

The Boys and Girls Club and school board member Jarnigan need to reassess their priorities. Both are supposed to have the best interest of students in mind and if they don’t what are either of them doing in their current positions. Jarnigan has one more meeting since he didn’t run for re election but the Boys and Girls Club will be back at budget season looking for more tax payer funding. It may be time those that can’t see the bigger picture re adjust their vision or they just might find the doors to the county coffers locked as tight as the doors to their facility. One thing is for certain-students come first no matter what their age or gender. And, when the rest of the room gets it and you stubbornly don’t or won’t it may be time to graciously head for the house.

Source: K. Depew, News Director