Steamboat Springs Too many balls in the air?
I can still remember the first time I walked into a Baskin-Robbins ice cream store when I was in junior high school.
The store boasted 31 glorious flavors and in my mind I could taste all of them before I even walked through the doors. By the time I stepped to the front of line to peer through the frosty Plexiglas that shielded all those flavors, I was drooling with anticipation.
But it didn't take long as I gazed at those 31 assorted barrels to realize that too many choices can be overwhelming. I wanted to order them all, but knew I would have to make a choice.
This month the administration at Steamboat Springs High School will also have to make some tough choices, but the group's decisions will be more important than selecting between mint chip, butter pecan and 29 other mouth-watering treats.
This choice will be about whether to start limiting the number of sports currently offered at the high school.
The school already provides 18 sports for a student body of less than 600. It's not quite the variety that Baskin-Robbins offers, but it's pretty darn good for a town the size of Steamboat.
The high school's current sporting menu already includes football, volleyball, cross-country, boys golf, boys soccer and boys tennis in the fall. The winter is filled with wrestling, boys and girls basketball and skiing.
In the spring students can choose between track, baseball, girls soccer, girls lacrosse, girls tennis and rodeo. There are also dance and cheerleading programs running throughout the course of the year.
The school has added nine sports since I started as a reporter for the Steamboat Pilot in 1990, and most of them were added in the past three years.
This explosive growth in the number of high school sports programs in Steamboat had barely raised an eyebrow before last spring, when a group from the Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association came to the school to ask for an ice hockey program.
The school put the proposal on a back burner and agreed to look into it and make a decision before the next Colorado High School Activities Association deadline, which is scheduled for the second week of April.
Since then, the school has also been discussing the addition of boys lacrosse.
Last week I brought up the topic of adding hockey to the current list of sports at the high school with Athletics Director Steve Moos, and for the first time in the two years I've dealt with him, I heard hesitation, and possibly a hint of fear, in his voice.
He informed me that the school was currently considering hockey, lacrosse and another girls sport (which would have to be added to meet Title 9 issues that address gender equality) before the CHSAA deadline this spring.
He wasn't saying NO to any new sports, but I think for the first time the high school has been giving serious thought to limiting its sporting endeavors.
If all the sports were added, the total number of athletic activities at the high school would be brought to 21.
Currently, more than 50 percent of the students at the high school participate in a high school sport. That doesn't include extracurricular activities such as speech or band.
Let me start by stating I do not think that the growth has been bad. I would agree that the added sports have helped Steamboat grow as a school and I see more new faces going out for sports than ever before.
However, I have also seen problems with this rapid growth and the way it is handled at the school.
At first I thought the addition of sports would mean more diversity. But in the past several years, I've seen less diversity as top athletes are swallowed by one program or another.
Instead of playing one sport in the fall, winter and spring, students seem to prefer to play one or two each season.
Another side effect of the large number of sports is an increased competition between programs to attract and hold on to top athletes. In the past several years, I've noticed a definite rift between programs as they try to develop their niche at the school.
The time to pull out the No. 2 pencils and draw a line has arrived. I'm not saying the school shouldn't add hockey, but the school needs to develop a plan for dealing with the addition of new sports in the future.
This is a complicated issue because the school wants to offer every athlete, no matter what his or her interest, a chance to compete and be a part of school activities. On the other hand, it is impossible for a high school to be every thing to every student.
The high school should be complimented on its effort to offer a wide variety of sports to a small but dedicated group of students. It is not fair to think they might be criticized if they decide to make a stand in the upcoming months.