One of the promises made by supporters of building a new high school were more opportunities for Juneau’s students to become engaged through sports and activities. In recent years, those promises have not held true.
Creating two teams for every sport and activity (except hockey and tennis) may have been sound in theory but has failed in reality. Those failures are difficult to ignore for those involved with Juneau prep athletics.
The Juneau School District was granted permission Friday to combine four Alaska Scholastic Activities Association sports and activities for the coming school year. We say it’s about time, because if teams aren’t merged the problem will only get worse.
What’s happening among high school sports is systemic of what’s happening elsewhere in the state and in our city as funding is lost. Budgets are tighter everywhere. The result for high school teams has been fewer opportunities for more students.
Teams now take fewer trips outside of Juneau due to a lack of funding, and when they do travel fewer players are brought along. Other teams struggle to have a team at all.
— Juneau-Douglas High School, once a perennial football powerhouse, could not field enough players for a JV team last season. That also limited opportunities for Thunder Mountain’s JV football team. “I only have 28 guys out, so we couldn’t run a good JV,” JDHS football coach Kevin Hamrick told the Empire last season. “The community is split between two schools and that is the way it is.”
— In basketball, the JDHS girls team could only afford to send seven players north to play in the Kenai River Classic to start the season. One starter was injured in the first half of the first game, leaving six to compete in the three-game tournament. Those six athletes played lots of minutes, but just as many varsity teammates were benched in Juneau.
— Also in girls basketball, if not for a team competing in the Capital City Classic adding a game to its schedule, TMHS would have had to wait three weeks into the season to play its first game. The Falcons were left out of the Capital City Classic this year. All the other basketball teams played in three or four games before the Falcons took to the court for the first time. When the Falcons did finally begin their schedule, every other team had registered half a dozen games or more.
— The JDHS and TMHS wrestling teams can’t find enough bodies to fill all the weight categories. When the two teams meet, some wrestlers have no opponent to face. The problem is the same when competing against smaller Southeast schools. There are now fewer than 20 wrestlers for both teams combined.
The JDHS boys basketball team brought home the state trophy this year, but they did so in spite of having two schools. What we’ve seen in far more other sports is a constant struggle to be average. If teams can’t compete – and win – student-athletes won’t want to participate. We’re seeing that now, and how more and more teams are needing underclassmen to bolster their roster in order to field a team at all.
The reality of our high school sports situation is that Juneau doesn’t have the money, athletes or experienced coaches to sustain two teams for every sport and activity at this time.
Having two schools go head to head, sharpening each other’s talents in combat on the field, the court, the diamond and the pitch, was a wonderful dream.
Now it’s time to wake up.
— Juneau Empire,