With another academic year in the books, the time is right to recognize all the adults that make co-curricular activities such a positive experience for students.
The adults are not recognized very much during the prep season, and that's because they wouldn't have it any other way. They're in it to help the development of students, not for personal glory.
And they're certainly not in it for financial gain.
This year, coaches and assistant coaches, depending on level and sport, made stipends between $338 and $4,224. Some also coached on a volunteer basis.
While $4,224 is not chump change, the amount of work coaches must do to earn that money is significant. Practices, contests and travel to contests quickly ramps up the amount of time coaches spend on an activity.
Then there is the less-publicized fundraising aspect of coaching. The only money the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District provides for activities is the coaching stipends. That means coaches must raise enough funds for uniforms, equipment, travel and, in cases like hockey, facilities rental fees.
Suddenly, the coaching stipend is not such a bargain.
Coaches cannot raise funds alone. Booster clubs also play a large role in raising funds for co-curricular activities, and these booster clubs tend to be fueled by volunteer hours of parents.
Parents and community members volunteer not only to raise funds, but also to help run meets, as is the case with track and field or, in the case of cross-country skiing, groom the trails.
Another big part of fundraising is, naturally, giving funds. Local businesses play a huge role in activities by giving more than it takes simply to keep up public relations.
Then, of course, there is that group of adults that makes activities possible that would definitely prefer to stay anonymous -- officials.
They referee for small sums of money and put up with tremendous amounts of garbage from coaches and fans in order to make the activities possible.
Of all the tasks involved with co-curricular activities, I've always looked at officiating as the most thankless. Nothing drives me crazier than the verbal harassment officials receive from a coach whose team has committed 30 turnovers in the game or a parent whose lack of knowledge of the rules is comic.
I've always looked at officials as people generously giving -- or practically giving -- their time to make an activity possible.
I've never understood why so many feel so comfortable verbally harassing these regular members of the community.
Dave Spence, the executive secretary of the Kenai Peninsula School Activities Association for 13 years, said the co-curricular product that the school district is able to offer thanks to the generosity of adults is impressive.
He said the generosity of adults keeps the menu of activities so large that any student that wants to participate can participate.
"We have high schools of less than 500, and they run 12 varsity programs, and to be able to have the success they do and give the quality of experience they do is pretty amazing," he said.
Spence said, ideally, the district would have more funding to dediciate to co-curricular activities.
"I'd just like to say, at least from the KPSAA standpoint, that we are truly grateful and fortunate to have folks that are that passionate," he said. "We are fortunate to have a community that sees the value these activities provide."
Mike's call: Is the NAHL growing too much?
The poor economy has given the North American Hockey League more opportunity.
Recently, two former Texas-based Central Hockey League teams ceased operations and were immediately replaced by NAHL franchises. The CHL is a professional league, typically considered to be a tier below the East Coast Hockey League, which is second to the American Hockey League.
The Corpus Christi IceRays and Amarillo Gorillas, which folded after the 2009-10 campaign, have been replaced by NAHL teams. The new IceRays -- they will keep their name -- operated as the Alpena (Mich.) IceDiggers last year in the NAHL. Amarillo is an expansion team.
Also joining the league next season is the Fresno (Calf.) Monsters. The Monsters are California's first NAHL team.
They played their first season this year as a member of the Tier III Junior A Western States Hockey League. Local owners started the franchise after the now defunct ECHL Fresno Falcons ceased operations after more than six decades.
The Michigan Warriors recently signed a five-year lease at Flint's Perani Arena. The Warriors, formerly the Marquette Rangers, are filling the void left by the Flint Generals of the International Hockey League.
Seven expansion teams so far will join the NAHL next season.
Ex-professional markets are ideal for junior hockey because the cost of production is low, Monsters head coach and general manager Eric Ballard said in an interview in April.
Makes sense. Billet families erase the cost of housing. As a developmental league, no salaries are paid. The list goes on.
But just because it makes economic sense, is it good for the league?
Ballard and Kenai River Brown Bears head coach Oliver David warned against adding too many new teams to the NAHL so as to keep the talent level high.
Fewer than five teams were playing at a higher level than the rest of the league this year, David said. Bringing several new teams, in theory, could spread that talent out, creating more parity in the league, he said. On the other hand, the same few teams with the financial ability could separate themselves even more, he said.
"It all remains to be seen, though," David said.
With the addition of the expansion teams, David said he suspects the number of skaters at open tryouts, which coaches use to scout as many potential players as possible, will drop throughout the country.
"The kids have more choices than they know what to do with," he said. "I'm guessing all camps, even the top level teams, will be down."
I agree that it could harm the league, but it does remain to be seen. If the NAHL wants to continue boasting that it's the only Tier II Junior A league in the country, it has to remain competitive.
Being the sole Tier II league has to mean something.
Like any other business venture, some of these expansion teams will fold quickly and others will be a success. No matter what happens, the NAHL needs to limit how many teams can join the league.
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