Print this story

Torrington BOE may vote to cut spring sports at the high school on Wednesday. Why it's a terrible idea.

POSTED March 16, 2016
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON- We hear it every couple of years.

Threats to either cut high school sports programs or introduce “Pay for Play."

Like clockwork.

This year, actually Wednesday night in the Torrington High School library, the possibility of there being no spring sports at THS will be on the table.

The Torrington school district is looking to cut in the area of $720,000 dollars from the budget and it has to be figured out on Wednesday night at a special 5 p.m. meeting before the regularly scheduled Board of Education 6 p.m. meeting.

If it is decided at the first meeting to cut sports, there will no stopping the decision.

Listen, I understand there is no getting around paying the bills and if you don’t have the money, you need to cut something.

I stick with sports because it’s what I do, but I also understand the ramifications of closing schools (East School is said to be on the block), which is an even bigger deal, I know.

Sports it’s what I do, so it’s what I’ll address.

I can’t even imagine what would happen if a high school cancelled an entire season.

Heck, Torrington has enough trouble getting kids who attend the middle school to move up into their own high school. What will happen when parents think the sports programs might be used as ping pong balls for negotiating purposes?

Not sure how we recover from that slippery slope.

I spoke with a man given about twenty minutes to come up with as many cuts as he could find from a program that has cut about as much as possible over the last couple of years.

Torrington Athletic Director, Mike McKenna, spoke of what he was tasked with and what it might mean not to have a spring sports program.

“I was asked to put together what it cost to run each program,” McKenna said. “I sent it on to the Superintendent.”

How devastation would it be to lose spring sports?

“Number one,” McKenna said, “we have commitments, league commitments and state commitments as we are part of the Naugatuck Valley League and the CIAC. We said we were going to play these games and then we would not? Its one thing to cancel sub-varsity games, it happens all the time. Your varsity schedule, to just pack it in and say we are not showing up? That’s a huge deal. I have never heard of anything like this happening. Maybe it has, but I’ve never heard of it.”

Nobody in the sports world I spoke with Tuesday night had ever heard of such a thing either.

Nobody knew what the implications would be between Torrington and the organizations they are part of.

How would the CIAC react?

How about the kids?        

“You have seniors who have been waiting for their senior year in their sport.” McKenna said. “And you’ve just cut them out. Kids who are being looked at for college scholarships like Dom Sabia (baseball). This is his junior year, this is a big year for him. Now all of a sudden he doesn’t have a junior year. We’ve made commitments to these kids to give them these things. To give them a baseball program or a softball program or a track program. Now we might tell them they can’t have it?”

You are probably talking about nearly 250 students that would hurt if the spring programs are eliminated.

Say goodbye to golf, baseball, softball, track and tennis.

How many other seasons would go by the wayside? Would we alternate seasons?

Gives me a migraine to think about it, please stop.

Ironic that the second full spring on the wonderful new track and field complex would not happen, even as the facility is up for a national design award.

Bottom line on all of this is that it simply cannot happen.

Sports play such an important role in the development of our young people in a way that can’t be duplicated elsewhere.

Want an example?

Here’s one from a former Raider, through and through.

“My academics would have suffered,” said Michael Ciesco (Class of 2002). “I would not have the life-long friends I have today. I would not have learned the lessons of commitment, teamwork and accountability. In the classroom, you learn a great deal and it gives you a wonderful foundation for the future. But for me, as an athlete, the foundation would not have been complete without athletics. It’s made me a man who can survive the real world.”

One of the many outstanding young men Torrington High School graduated into the world and who is making a difference every day, and much of his success is based in the sports he played as a Raider.

There are reasons the district is in the hole as deep as it is, nearly $720,000 dollars. That’s not the fault of the kids, they are not in charge of the budget. Big people need to look in the mirror and figure out why this shortfall exists.    

Sure, I understand that nobody wants anything to be cut, that they are affected by it, but do we really want to deny these students the same opportunity that many others had during their time at THS?

I think not.

Do we want to continue to lose students to other schools now because we tend to play with high school sports programs?

I think not.

Do we really need the statewide coverage for something other than spreading the good news about what happens in our sports programs at THS?

I think not.

While the five o’clock meeting has no public speaking time added in, a large show of supporters won’t hurt.

I suspect Torrington will show up, your student/athletes are counting on it.

For more from Timothy W. Gaffney click here