Change is never easy.
It’s even more difficult when it is affecting something that has nearly a century of tradition behind it.
But sometimes change is not only necessary, it’s the only commonsense thing to do.
The Wilkes-Barre Area School Board voted 6-3 on Tuesday night to combine the sports and sports-related extracurricular activities at the district’s schools.
We understand that each of the city’s three high schools have long, storied traditions in many sports.
And some of those traditions and stories are well-known nationally.
Raghib “Rocket” Ismail was the most highly recruited high school football player in the nation at Meyers High School just a few decades ago.
He would go on to stardom at Notre Dame, making all of the Wyoming Valley proud. His brother – Qadry Ismail – helped the Baltimore Ravens win a Super Bowl after making a name for himself at Syracuse.
Before former Luzerne County commissioner Greg Skrepenak earned the nickname “The Barge” as an offensive lineman at Michigan and in the NFL, he suited up for GAR.
Bruce Kozerski played in the Super Bowl with the Cincinnati Bengals. He got his start at Coughlin.
And, of course, there are the legendary coaches. Mickey Gorham, J.P. Meck and Charlie Fick carved their names into the history of the Wyoming Valley by coaching football at city schools.
But times have changed, and perhaps it’s best we listen to the coaches currently running the district’s sports programs.
Several of them turned out for Tuesday’s meeting and told the board that this bit of change was a long time in coming, according to education reporter Mark Guydish’s story.
“We used to compete with 60 kids. We have 30,” Coughlin High School football coach Ciro Cinti said. “It’s getting tougher every year.”
It’s not just football.
“The numbers don’t lie,” Meyers High School basketball coach Pat Toole said. “People say sometimes sports come in cycles. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a cycle, it’s a spiral downwards.”
“You have well over 100 years of coaching experience in this room,” Meyers track and field coach Bill White added, urging the board and audience to heed their opinions. “Some sports are on a death watch.”
According to Guydish’s story, board member Denise Thomas said she was firmly set against consolidation when the transition committee was formed, but became convinced it is necessary after hearing the low participation numbers in many sports.
This is not to say that the school board handled this decision well.
Critics rightly questioned the lack of advance notice that the vote was on the agenda, and the board’s failure to release details of the proposal well ahead of the meeting for public consumption. Certainly, the board could have done a better job getting feedback from more coaches and student athletes — comments Tuesday from coaches and three students suggested the idea would have been well received in those circles.
It’s also not to suggest that we are pleased to be seeing longtime rivalries between the three city schools’ sports programs going the way of The Bon Ton and Toys R Us.
But perhaps, this is one case of change where we all need to take a step back from the emotion and listen to what those most closely involved have to say.
– Times Leader