School of choice has ruined local sports for some schools

School of choice has ruined local sports for some schools
December 12
01:00 2019

Now that I have worked for The Chronicle for several years, I have had the opportunity to learn about the history and makeup of the high schools in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System. I have come to realize the single most harmful thing to happen to high school sports was school of choice.

This is not an article that is out to bash any high school, but simply to point out some of the things I have noticed about high school sports in the area. It seems some schools have benefited from the practice of allowing student-athletes to choose where they attend high school, while others have suffered dearly because of it.

I went to high school, first in St. Petersburg, Fla., and then in Woodbridge, Va., during the late 1990s. We did not have a choice of schools. We had to go to the high school that was zoned for your address, so when I heard that the kids in Forsyth County had an option of where they wanted to attend high school, that was foreign to me.

Of course, I am not talking about students who attend a different high school based on their academic pursuits or those who have to deal with bad coaching because that does exist, but I am talking about a student-athlete who chooses to attend another school simply because their assigned school is not very good.

When I was in high school, we thrived off the fact that we were representing a neighborhood and took pride in defending our honor in sports. I’m not saying that the kids nowadays don’t have a similar sense of pride, but it’s not like it used to be.

For me it seems some kids go to a different school because their assigned school may not be very good in athletics. I spoke with a student-athlete a year ago and he was going to change schools because “that school is trash in football,” he said. He told me he wanted to go to a place that “wins all the time” and he did transfer to that school.

That interaction made me sad, not only as a former athlete, but also as a parent. As an athlete, I always wanted to beat the best, never felt the need to join them. I ran track in high school, but our cross-town rival Potomac had one of the best track and field programs in the state. They won the state championship my senior year, but I never had thoughts of transferring to their school, because I wanted to beat them so badly. My team finished third that day, but I made it a point to dominate any athlete from their school whenever I had the opportunity.

As a parent, I would be very disappointed in my child if she wanted to transfer to another school based solely on their success. She is a gifted track and field athlete herself, but her school is not very good. We had a conversation about her possibly transferring to a program in Raleigh that is a juggernaut, but she told me that she wanted to stay with her teammates and try to beat them. At that moment, I was more proud of her than anything she had accomplished on the track, because I realized she had the heart of a lion.

The ability to change schools for student-athletes in the county has helped several programs. It has allowed several programs to thrive in many sports, which is great not only for them, but also the city as a whole. On the other side of that coin, where does that leave the schools who are having their student-athletes leave or not attend at all?

There are two schools that come to mind when I think about those who have been hurt the most. I won’t name them, but we all know who they are. One has a deep and rich history in athletics, but now they are routinely a doormat to other Forsyth County schools simply because they don’t have the numbers to compete with the other schools. I guarantee if their student-athletes “stayed home” as one coach pointed out to me, they would be back near the top.

The other school I had in mind is looking to turn things around, especially in football and basketball, due to the new coaches they have brought in over the past year.  

My hope is that they change the rule and allow the local schools to have an even playing field. I know kids today want instant gratification, but I think it would be in everyone’s best interest to do away with this rule.

Just my opinion.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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