High school sports being starved of financial support

The parent of a dedicated athlete wants to bring in corporate advertising as a solution to the funding crisis facing high school sports in the Okanagan Skaha School District.

The parent of a dedicated athlete wants to bring in corporate advertising as a solution to the funding crisis facing high school sports in the Okanagan Skaha School District.

“Our sports programs are dying,” said Daryl Clarke, president of the District Parents’ Advisory Council.

He says he will find a way for his daughter — who plays volleyball, basketball and rugby — to keep playing, but that is not possible for all parents.

Clarke said it cost $550 just to get his daughter signed up and ready to play for the volleyball season. Add in another $650 to attend the provincials and other expenses incurred during the three-month long season and it cost about $3,000 to keep his daughter playing.

“There are so many kids out there that can’t even afford to set foot on the court,” said Clarke. “That’s where our concern is; the kids that are playing sports on a Saturday night aren’t the ones that are getting into trouble.”

Speaking to the board of education Monday evening, Clarke told them that the sports program at Princess Margaret Secondary is $24,000 in debt, while Penticton Secondary is down $32,000.

The board took no action on his suggestion, but agreed to discuss it at a later meeting.

Much of the funding for sports used to come from school vending machines. But since healthy food initiatives replaced the junk food in those machines, revenues have dropped off.

“Most of the profits from that used to go into the sports programs, and at Pen High that number was close to $40,000 a year,” said Clarke, adding that revenue from the machines is down to 10 per cent of what it used to be. “The kids that want the junk food are going to walk 100 yards … the kids that want the healthy choices usually have it in their lunch bag.”

Clarke’s concept is to get local businesses to help fund the teams, putting up signs in the gym advertising their support. It’s a concept he said was working in Nanaimo, where the provincial volleyball championships were held last year.

“They weren’t selling to the kids, they weren’t pushing products to the kids. They were showing that they support the programs,” he said.

“The school board does not have the money to do it, the money is going into education. We have to start thinking outside the box to fund these programs.”

Clarke has been talking to other parents about his idea and getting a lot of support. More than 100 have told him it is a good idea, he said, with only a couple telling him they think it would be treading on dangerous ground. He’s also got support from local businesses who have told him they are ready to write a cheque for the programs if the school board will allow the program.

“I want to proceed cautiously, but we have to proceed with something because we can’t ignore this any longer. More and more kids are getting left by the wayside,” he said.

“The sports are becoming an elitist thing … it’s only the kids with money that can play and we need to change the way we are approaching this so we can get more kids out there.”