Youth Sports And Misplaced Priorities

For last Sunday’s paper, I wrote a column about how ridiculous it is to be showing Little League baseball and high school football games on national TV. Then I ran across this story on the blog at Yahoo! Sports (a worthwhile daily read).

It seems that Bradenton Preparatory Academy in Florida doesn’t have a school building, can’t pay its taxes, and can’t pay its teachers, but it somehow manages to send its football team to Texas, New Orleans, Minnesota, and Texas again.

From the Yahoo! story:

All those problems were brought to light in an investigation by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, which proved that Prep Learning Academy currently has no recognized physical campus after its prior home was lost to foreclosure last year. It doesn’t even have the correct permit to operate a school in Florida and owes back pay of more than $25,000 to its teachers and more than $1 million in taxes to the U.S. government.

Still, Prep Learning Academy has one of the most far-reaching and aggressive schedules of any private school football program in the country. The Patriots obliterated the defending Texas private school (TAPPS) champion Richardson Canyon Creek 55-0 last week. That thrashing was just the second stop on a season sojourn that will also take Prep to New Orleans and Minnesota, not to mention another stop in Texas.

“I find it amazing that they can come up with all this money to send a team to Texas but they couldn’t pay us,” former teacher Mary Conway, one of 15 former staff preparing to sue the school for unpaid salary, told the Herald-Tribune. “I believe they have money. They just don’t want to pay the former teachers.”

This might be an extreme example, but it’s not unique. We refer you again to the story of Findlay College Prep in Las Vegas, which is high school basketball without the actual high school.

And it’s disturbing. Take the case of the Florida school — who in their right mind would think it’s a good idea to send their child there? How loose do your screws need to be to put that much stock in your child’s future as a football player?

I realize that only a small fraction of people think schools like these are a good idea. But I can’t help but think we are enabling this overemphasis on athletics by showing high school football and Little League baseball on national TV.

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