John F. Russell: Opportunities in athletics come at a cost


John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Tuesdays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email

Find more columns by John here.

Remember the good old days?

Back then, fall was for boy’s soccer, volleyball, cross-country and football. Winter belonged to boys and girls basketball teams and wrestling, and the spring was all about track. But things have changed in the world, and things have changed in Steamboat Springs.

This week, my 11-year-old daughter will start playing soccer again and all I have to do is find a way to fit it into a schedule that includes ice skating, skiing, piano and dance. At least she still has a couple of nights for homework — thank goodness for weekends.

There are no seasons anymore.

Most sports are a year-round commitment, and there are more sports than ever to choose from. The high school’s menu of sports has grown to a full plate in the time since I started working as a sports reporter in Steamboat Springs.

When I started at the Pilot & Today there were no tennis, golf or lacrosse teams. Girl’s soccer was still a few years away, people couldn’t play baseball here because there was too much snow and hockey was limited by the weather and the fact that the only ice skating rink in Steamboat was outside.

But like I said, things changed. The high school opened its doors to a wide range of sports, and thanks to roofs and all-weather surfaces, those spring sports are no longer limited because of weather.

I think it’s great there are so many choices in Steamboat Springs. Between the high school, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and seemingly a million other opportunities, children in this town have a full range of sporting endeavors from which to choose.

But those opportunities come with a cost.

These days, the number of sports offered in Steamboat Springs seems to be limited more by cost than the willingness to provide the opportunity itself. That was made clear during week’s School Board meeting when parents and officials gathered to discuss the cost of sports, how those sports are funded and what is fair.

In the past, the schools have come up with some creative ways to budget the growing cost of sports in the high school. They have found ways to fill the gaps, but it’s clear that things are going to change in the future.

The budgets are going to continue to shrink and ultimately I think more of the burden to provide sports in the schools will fall on the parents who will be asked to foot the bill — and not only for sports, but for music, the arts and many other extracurricular activities.

It's not fair, but this is the world today.

In the perfect world there would be plenty of cash to fund every sport our town has to offer, and our children would have enough time to follow every path that is out there.

It was like that back in the good old days, but there were limitations, too. Children didn't have as many opportunities.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email


Robert Dippold 4 years, 2 months ago

John, Why do you say it isn't fair that the "burden" should fall on the parents? As taxpayers we all pitch in to pay for K-12 education most of our adult lives. If parents had to individually pay for their kids educations while they were in school the bill would be very large at a time when it would be difficult to pay. However, I see offering ever activity and sport as an extravagance that goes beyond the value of an education. Kids can learn the value of participating in sports without having ever sport offered under the sun. There is no magic pile of cash out there that pays for your kids to go to school. It is your neighbors that don't have kids, currently have kids in school or have had kids in school. The "burden" to educate your kids whether it is to pay for their sports or teachers is already on your neighbors.


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