In the old days, high school sports had something called exponents. There were varsity teams and junior varsity, C and B teams.
Exponents were based on an athlete’s age, height and weight. Numerical values were given for each variable, like Pop Warner does now. A person with the lowest numerical score would be a C. A B would be older, taller and heavier than a C.
Athletes with more exponents than were allowed to compete at the B level had to play varsity. So a big sophomore had to play varsity. In some cases, a big freshman would have varsity exponents.
Some leagues did not use the exponent system. They had their teams compete by grade level. In those leagues, there were freshman and sophomore and junior varsity teams. The sophomore teams and junior varsity teams evolved into one team. That is the system that we use today. Junior varsity teams are not allowed to have seniors compete on them in most sports in most leagues.
Many high schools were three-year institutions. When I started coaching at Ramona High School, San Diego City Schools were all three-year high schools. There were no freshmen. Therefore there were no freshmen teams, just junior varsity teams.
For a while the Grossmont Unified School District did away with frosh teams and only fielded junior varsity and varsity teams. For some strange reason, their teams did not do well in the playoffs, especially in football. For the same strange reason, the power shifted from the city and East County to the North County in most sports.
There are many philosophies about how lower division programs should be run. At Ramona, the freshman football players all play on the freshman team. In other sports some freshmen are placed on the junior varsity and varsity teams. There is no one correct way to run a program. In some sports ninth-graders have the skills to compete at higher levels.
In a game like football, where there is no youth program for the really big players, the frosh team is very important. Football has no travel teams. Football has no year-round programs. Tall basketball players can play in youth leagues. Big football players can’t.
Some sports can compete year-round, especially in the great climate that San Diego has. Football has no travel teams and does not have winter and spring leagues. There are summer passing leagues but no full contact leagues.
Baseball and softball have fall and winter leagues. Basketball has fall, spring and summer leagues. Soccer plays year-round, also. Many lower level teams can play year-round.
Whether lower division teams are used as a feeder program or a recreational release, they are excellent educational experiences.
A student/athlete can often learn more from being on a team than in a classroom. Life lessons like hard work, teamwork, dealing with adversity, dealing with pain, accepting defeat, being gracious in victory are valuable educational experiences.
My junior varsity football coach told our parents that we would learn more from being on the JV football team than we would learn in any course offered at our high school. The irony of that statement was he was also the dean of academics and taught Latin.
A bigger irony about that statement was he was 100 percent correct. I learned more about myself from being on that team than I did in any course that I took in high school or since.
The reason that I am pontificating about lower division sports is that we will certainly lose them. Cuts have to be made.
Recent opinions have been expressed in the Sentinel that hit hard at education and educators. God bless America and our free press. I can proudly say that I have fought for the rights of the authors of said articles and would do so again. I may not agree with what they had to say, but I put my life on the line so they could say it.
One contributor mentioned that coaches get paid and inferred that they shouldn’t since youth coaches don’t get paid. I will use one example to refute that argument: Damon Baldwin. Coach Baldwin has brought in well over 30 times more revenue through gate receipts and fundraisers for RHS in football in one year than he is paid. The same can be said for most of the other coaches at RHS.
Can that be said about the English teachers, the kindergarten teachers or any other classroom teachers? If no, should we fire them? Ridiculous! Well not as ridiculous as a person criticizing the teachers’ pay scale when that person is paid more from his employer that uses fundamentally the same system.
Being on any team is an educational experience. Athletics is one of the few places where discipline is enforced in our public schools. Athletics is one of the few paces where teamwork is taught in our public schools.
The physical benefits and mental benefits of athletics could be the topic of several separate articles. If we do away with lower division teams, there will still be traveling teams and those who can afford to pay can still pay. If we do away with public schools, we will still have private schools. Those who can afford to pay could still learn.
There are many reasons that we have public schools. There are many reasons that we have athletics in public schools.
Note: Any time the word athletics was used in this article if could have been replaced by any extracurricular activity.