District Discusses Sports Sharing At Public Meeting
RUTHVEN – Following a growing trend across the state, if not the region, officials from the Ruthven-Ayrshire and the Graettinger/Terril Community School Districts are looking at the possibility of adding to their current list of shared athletic offerings. A pair of community meetings were held last week to feel out the public’s interest and coments on the possibility of sharing both girls and boys basketball programs between the two districts.
On Monday evening, April 11, around 35 district patrons, including some student athletes, turned out at the Ruthven-Ayrshire High School gym to talk about the pros and cons of sharing another sport. Earlier this Spring, the two districts entered into athletic sharing of boys and girls golf and track, as well as wrestling. The new sharing agreements joined a sharing agreement that began last Summer for baseball and will continue this coming season.
Ruthven-Ayrshire Athletic Director Jon Josephson started the meeting by explaining how talks about sharing basketball had first been brought up in January of this year after Graettinger/Terril Athletic Director Rod Hough first broached the subject. “He and I talked about our numbers for next season, and after visiting with the school board, we conducted a survey of our students to determine their intent and feelings about sharing athletics. We conducted the survey in March and now we are here in a public meeting to get the public’s thoughts.”
According to the survey results, Josephson noted that 80 percent of the RA students in grades 7-11 who planned to play basketball felt they would be more competitive if they shared the sport. The survey also noted that 58 percent of those planning to play were supportive of sharing, with 40 percent opposed to sharing at this time.
“We asked the students who they thought we should share with, and 64 percent of those who plan to play basketball said we should share with Graettinger/Terril, while 29 percent said we should look at other schools if we plan to share,” Josephson said.
In terms of the whole student body, Josephson said 70 percent felt teams would be more competitive if shared, and 56 percent said it would be a good idea to share basketball. 36 percent opposed sharing at this time, while 61 percent of all students in 7-12 felt sharing should be done with Graettinger-Terril, with 30 percent wanting to look at other schools.
“Finally, 100 percent of our coaching staff have indicated they would like to share with Graettinger/Terril,” Josephson said.
Members of the community were able to present their opinions, and the tone seemed to be set early.
“Let’s be proactive and not wait until we don’t have enough players to make a team or are not competitive,” stated Tracy Enderson. “I had a child play for Lakeland the kids got along OK and were treated fairly. It was the parents that have some old rivalries and feelings. I just think it’s time for us to look and do something before we can’t.”
Board member Susan Sikora, the parent of two athletes currently playing, shared a comment opposing the idea that was relayed to her, and then gave her personal opinion. “I can see both sides of this. I see the competitive side of this, because we don’t want to lose that ability to be competitive, but I’m also afraid there are those kids who may fall through the cracks.”
“I see both sides of this too,” noted Alesha Sikora, a player on the RA girls basketball squad. “I think it will make us more competitive if we share. And, I’d like to see us share, because I’d like to see the lower grades have the playing time we’d have with more kids.”
Another player agreed with Sikora. “I played basketball in ninth grade and I didn’t get a lot of playing time,” noted Miranda McGrauth. “Next year, we’re going to be inexperienced and very young. If we share, we’ll be more experienced. I just think it will be a good deal.”
Tim Swanson, assistant boys basketball coach, pointed out that there were no junior varsity games for the girls this past season, which gave the boys more time for JV practices. “I look at the last couple of years and we’ve been stronger on the boys side with numbers, but those numbers are going down and maybe we’re not going to be able to be as competitive as we’d like to be. We had to play some sophomores this year on varsity and it would have been nice to have had them play more JV to get experience they need for the varsity, instead of throwing them in there.”
Jared Sikora, a junior high player, agreed with that observation. “I want to share and have to compete to get a spot. I don’t just want a spot handed to me I want to earn it.”
Boys’ Head Coach Randy Hough explained he had three goals as a coach “I want to see us have more competition for playing time and positions, and second, I want our kids to play at a level that they can succeed at. Finally, I don’t want to have to play a kid if he’s not ready to play at that level. We can get by for this next year, but why not be proactive? I can tell you that kids don’t work hard if they don’t have to worry about a spot on the team. Competition for spots will mean they work harder and that will make them better all the way around.”
The comments continued to be supportive of the sharing idea.
“At first I thought, ‘no way,” admitted Brenda Stukey, “but then Coach Hough said it would be all right. Graettinger/Terril has welcomed us in other sports, I think they’ll welcome us for basketball, too.”
Football Coach Larry Swingen stated he felt the district needed to be proactive. “It’s vital for these kids to have the lower level games to learn the game and get the experience. They’ve got to have the competition for the spots on the teams. Sharing will give us the numbers to be able to offer JV and maybe even freshman teams and that’s a win-win for the kids.”
After hearing nearly an hour’s worth of comments, Board President Lisa Berkland asked the crowd if anyone was not comfortable with sharing basketball with Graettinger/Terril. There was no response.
With that, the RA board came to a consensus to have Josephson meet with GT officials to work out details, pending Graettinger/Terril’s board approving the sharing during its April meeting.