The topic of sharing of sports between school districts has come to the forefront in our county with talks between the Ruthven-Ayrshire and Graettinger/Terril School Districts.
Like many other school districts in our rural state, the same affliction is driving the bus - declining numbers of students in schools, which leads to a lower number of students who participate in extra-curricular activities such as sports, and soon, there are schools that no longer have enough players to field a team.
Such was the case earlier this Spring, when the administrators at Graettinger/Terril and Ruthven-Ayrshire started talking about sports offerings. For the two districts, Spring sports, specifically boys and girls track and field, along with girls and boys golf, were both concerns. Each school had youth who wanted to participate in the various sports, but independently, the teams wouldn't have been viable or competitive.
Accepting that reality, the two school districts set aside some of the old rivalries and put the interests of the kids first - they talked about sharing Spring Sports and worked out an agreement to do just that.
Now, the joint GT/RA?boys golf team, girls golf team, boys track team and girls track team have been competing, when weather has permitted, that is, and gaining some much appreciated experience and learning from the competition.
This isn't the first sharing effort of the two districts - last Summer, the baseball programs came together and played a season as GT/RA on the diamond to start the sharing thoughts. With the addition of golf and track, the two schools also entered into an agreement for the upcoming school year to share wrestling.
In the past few weeks, community meetings have been held in Graettinger and Ruthven to discuss community interest in sharing basketball for the coming school year for both girls and boys. The driving force? Numbers again - more boys in Ruthven-Ayrshire and more girls at Graettinger/Terril.
I attended both of the community meetings, and while one can sense that the reasons for sharing are understood and for the most part accepted, there are still some fears that remain in the background.
Well, maybe fear isn't the right word - but the major concern would appear to be the loss of community identity by sharing - the loss of a mascot name or perhaps colors of a uniform. One parent was discussing those concerns, when the agreement to share hadn't even been approved.
It would seem that such concerns should be secondary to allowing the youth to compete, to learn the lessons of teamwork, sportsmanship along with having the opportunity to compete against their peers. The key thing to remember in all of this is that it is being considered for the kids - not the egos of parents.
I respect the history and pride of our communities and their schools, because the schools are such an integral part of our communities and their identities. But, we have to be realistic in our thinking today, as we deal with declining populations and declining enrollments. Isn't it better to have some name recognition, even shared, that to have no recollection at all?