Bowling, crew, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, rugby and sailing — these are sports teams Ridgefield High School wants its students to be able to participate in as club sports in its athletic program.
However, the school doesn’t have an approved set of guidelines, or procedures, necessary to show its commitment level to these activities.
RHS principal Stacey Gross and Athletic Director Carl Charles drafted a procedure for sports team to be considered as a club sport and brought it to the Board of Education for discussion Monday night.
“These sports aren’t in our athletic budget— they don’t fit under the student life umbrella — so they don’t have a home,” said Ms. Gross. “We really want to support our kids and what they want to do without any prejudices.
“We want to give parents of kids who want to play these sports a real answer and a real direction to go.”
After a 20-minute dialogue, the board concluded Ms. Gross and Mr. Charles would need to return after they calculated what the program’s insurance cost would be and how much of the liability the board would fall under if the clubs were accepted as part of the athletics program.
“Our initial thought is the insurance won’t be covered by the club itself and it’s something our school district will have to cover to show our commitment,” Mr. Charles said.
He added that all other funding for the program— salaries, supplies, transportation, uniforms, officials, facility and field rentals — would be covered by the club’s participants.
When the proposal drew some negative feedback from board members, Mr. Charles said “the clubs will be picking up a lot more” of the total cost compared to the insurance cost the board will be asked to cover.
The drafted procedure presented to the board states that for a team to be considered for approval by the Board of Education as a club sport, the organizers must submit a written request to Ms. Gross and Mr. Charles, which they will review.
If a club gets preliminary approval by the high school, then it gets forwarded to Superintendent Deborah Low before final submission to the Board of Education.
The board has the right to accept and reject a team as a club.
According to the drafted procedure, when considering applications, the board will have to evaluate the overall athletic opportunities already provided to students in the district as well as the impact of the proposed club on the district’s compliance with Title IX.
Most importantly, the board will have to determine the likelihood that the organizers of the club will be able to raise enough money to sustain the team as a club for at least three years. It would also consider the long-term sustainability of the activity as a varsity sport.
“There needs to be a financial commitment from the club’s organizers and that’s three years,” Mr. Charles said. “These clubs need to be efficiently self-funded without the district’s paying for their costs.”
In addition, the board must consider future financial constraints it may face if the club becomes a varsity-level team.
“Should the Board of Education eventually decide to adopt a sports club as part of the athletics program at RHS, the following costs would need to be considered in regards to budgets and fundings,” the memorandum the board received Monday states.
According to the drafted procedure, before the request gets anywhere near the board, the parties submitting the request must provide the following information:
- Documentation of student interest adequate to support a viable competitive team
- The qualified coach(es) who will coach the club sport. Coaches must have a coaching permit issued by State of Connecticut standards and must attend pre-season athletic department meetings conducted by the RHS ahtletics director.
- Proven and sustained availability of appropriate competition within reasonable distance from the school by submitting a copy of the club’s proposed athletic schedule to the athletics director. The director will provide scheduling support to the club.
In addition, clubs must agree to be supervised by the athletics director and club participants must be follow the RHS “Athletics Training Expectations,” which states that all athletes participating in any sport at Ridgefield High School are to be chemical free.
The athletics office will also oversee required paperwork, including parental consent forms, emergency consent to treat and current physical forms, as well as a submitted roster of the team one week prior to the start of the season.
As for the sports listed on the memorandum presented to the board, Mr. Charles said that rugby and fencing have drawn the most participants with 40 and 35 students, respectively.