The sporting landscape in Pittsburgh, as well as the USA, is frail and full of missed opportunities. Communities often fumble on their offerings. A holistic design is seldom part of the mix. The problems with the media, with political leadership and self-interest, especially in the school administration sectors, are ripe.
Those in the UK, Australia, Canada and elsewhere, seem to get it while those in the United States fumble the vision of what sports can and should do for more people -- from participants, coaches, boosters, classroom-educators, fans, reporters, sponsors and politicians.
The United Way of Western Pennsylvania is, as of the fall of 2019, making some efforts to consider sports as part of its day-to-day mission. Hooray!
The strengths-based model has been adopted by Sport England's “use our school” initiative. It is “committed to helping people and communities across the country create sporting habits for life” within the facilities in schools. http://www.sportengland.org/facilities-planning/use-our-school/. The UK schools have, by and large, only a fraction of the sporting facilities that are present in the typical schools in the United States. Meanwhile, the greater majority of schools in the UK do already use the school sports facilities for community sports.
In Pittsburgh, the facilities are generally present, but modest in terms of being modern and functional. Few, if any, are inspirational. All of the facilities could use some upgrades of some types, especially in terms of being accessible from the sidewalks without needing to transverse throughout a maze of hallways to reach the sports venues. But the important message concerning the Pittsburgh Public Schools facilities is their closed status. The facilities are generally used for physical education classes in the school day and with school teams. However, for most afternoons, evenings, nights, weekends, holidays and summer-time hours -- these facilities are closed and locked to community programs.
A use our schools initiative for Pittsburgh Public Schools sporting facilities would be a fantastic start for the United Way's efforts.
Pittsburgh's inventory of strengths and a strength-based model is also a welcomed as an early planning step.
The UN desires implementation partnerships for programs that lead to lifelong health and wellness, yet the UN's vice-president for Global Advocacy — World Vision, Mr. Charles Badenoch, stated, Unfortunately today there is a dearth of data on the effectiveness of partnerships. We need to learn from what works and what doesn’t work across all sector partnerships at all levels.
This video talks about the different motivations and viewpoints from different kids. Frankly, the slogan that fits often is "Different strokes for different folks."
Recap article from the Trib has a long list of WPIAL athletes and teams that won state titles. Nothing from the city.
Lamb, Sheehan, Ed-Tech spending and Cuba trips.
Being fit, and being an athlete, requires weekend workouts.
Kids and families want the weekend workouts.
Meanwhile, in the northern reaches of western Pennsylvania, at Slippery Rock University, the kid triathletes are working on their swimming, biking, running and transitions at a clinic on the weekends too!
Since the opening weeks of Pittsburgh Obama Academy, the principals prohibited Saturday practices for the various swimming programs. First it was Dr. Wayne Walters. Then it was Principal Colbert. Neither would sign-off on the necessary paperwork to allow for practices in the swimming pool. No pool permits were ever granted for varsity and middle school students who attended the school for any Saturdays.
Total discrimination, for years. And, each year, the issues were raised.
Other schools have Saturday practices and even many have Saturday meets. Not at Obama.
As a result of these roadblocks from the principals, the team often had to make other arrangements. Obama would hold practices at Arsenal Middle School. And, then the route was for the creation of the Saturday Swim School at other schools. Practices were shifted elsewhere, including Oliver High School and Allegheny Middle School.
See you on the flip side, Coach. Thanks for the years of success and leadership.
Coach aims to lead the team down the road at Central Catholic instead of Allderdice. We'll see if that comes to pass.
By the way, the 6-12 schools stink.
The book mentioned in the rant did come out in the form of a position paper, Fewer Sports Alternatives.
It is impossible to get the students to "Be there" when the principal continually refused to allow that to happen.
- Coach Mark Rauterkus concerning PPS Obama's Principal Colbert
Swim teams that are successful, generally have morning swim practices. We had morning practices at PPS Obama Academy and made this fun video that was for a campaign run by the United Way about "Being There!" The message was, show up for school.
Before there was Obama, the swimmers at Frick Middle School had morning swim practices too.
The swimmers at Allderdice, under the guidance of Coach Al Rose of the JCC Sailfish, hold early morning swim practices before school too. That's why the Allderdice swimmers can make it to the WPIAL Championships.
The swim team was not allowed to hold AM Swim Practices in the 2017-18 school year, the first year of Ms. Colbert at the Obama Principal. She would not sign the permit as had been the case for the past 10+ years or so.
The writing was on the wall and not showing up on the pool permit requests.
Could not get a permit for holiday practices at Obama, until the good folks at central administration stepped in.
The Sci-Tech swimmers were mostly present and swam on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout, but the Monday, Wednesday and Friday practices for the Obama students didn't happen.
The Sci-Tech swimmers are part of a sports co-op so those students are part of the Obama Varsity Teams.
Of course, both boys and girls got to attend these AM swimming practices that were offered by the boys varsity coach. Furthermore, some times the middle school students could be included in with the morning practices as well, when permitted. Go figure.
The United Way's campaign to "be there" got a new set of rules and a new launch in 2019. The video below is from The Ellis School's middle school swim team.
I had the pleasure of meeting my school board member, Cynthia Falls, for lunch on Feb 8, 2019, a cold winter day. We got to talk about some of my concerns. Plus, I got a sense from her as to what she has been working on and how we might be able to proceed.
Of course, she asked for a written summary, and I sent it to her a week or so later, on Feb 17, 2019.
Memo from Mark Rauterkus, Swim, SKWIM & Water Polo Coach
With the past ten years of coaching at PPS, I always delivered great results with my programs, but sadly, the district slogan, “Expect Great Things,” is far from the truth when it comes to the treatment of swim programs and pools within PPS.
The PPS board and superintendent, Dr. Hamlet, can sustain swimming's evaporation into nothingness and continue to squander the swim-pool resources throughout the district. Or, together, we can turn the tide and make the existing swim pools inspiring learning laboratories for discovering individual and group excellence.
The hope is to give witness, grow political will and provide district leadership with a vision to enable, dynamic, pool usage that benefits students and community.
These statements concerning PPS swim pools and programs are organized in four parts:
2) Recent past,
3) Present, and
When I met PPS's Athletic Director, Mike Gavlik, he told me, “Swimming is dying in the city.”
“No. Swimming within PPS was dying because PPS administrators were killing it,” I said.
Swimming in-and-around the city was doing better than ever. Ten years ago, USA Swimming was riding a wave of increased participation thanks in part to Michael Phelps. Locally, Oakland Catholic's super-star, Leah Smith, became an Olympic Champion.
We got Schenley's varsity team into the WPIAL, and the Spartans went undefeated to win a WPIAL Class AA Section Title, the first for any sports team from PPS. Our 27-day Swim & Water Polo program as part of Summer Dreams operated out of five sites and grew to 200+ kids. Incredible results, but a hard slog with hit-and-miss support.
Principal's bogus "investigation" in the swim season (First quarter, 2018) never had any report. No findings. No hints of restorative justice. Inaction by school AD, school principal, PPS AD, HR, Vice Superintendents, and Dr. Hamlet who was personally contacted four times.
August 4, 2017, Principal Colbert refused to sign a pool permit for fall water polo. Program costs $0 to PPS. Volunteer coaching. More than 35 students at Obama played water polo in 2016 and wanted to resume activities but could not have a season for no reason. Inaction was resolved, with administration support, on October 25, 2017 - but competitive swim season began the next week.
Upon taking the new role as Principal, Ms. Colbert refused to meet with the swim coach despite weekly requests from the end of May 2017 to mid October. Plenty of issues needed attention.
A problem co-worker coach (C.W.) was elevated to the varsity team, quit on the team, then was to be re-hired for the next year despite a year's worth of documentation and other capable interviewed candidates. Additional documented objections recinded her re-hiring as a varsity coach, but sadly, she was re-positioned to an Obama middle-school role in 2017-18. In 2018-19, she was often absent missing many meets and practices. Documented folly is omitted due to its length.
Coach Rauterkus desired to move from Obama to Brashear, as two new coaches were needed with the Bulls. None applied for the posted positions for the 2018-19 season by July. Brashear's principal didn't grant an interview.
Swim pools at Perry and Oliver have been closed from August 2018 to Feb 2019, still.
No water polo activities are happening at PPS schools (2017-18, 2018-19).
No swimming happened in PPS pools in summers, 2018.
Hopes for aquatics within PPS Community Schools, still just talking stages.
Additional swim teams across PPS have evaporated.
All returning PIAA swimmers on Obama's swim team quit in 2018-19.
Zero Obama swimmers qualified for the 2019 WPIAL meet.
Obama swim team participation in 2018-19 was a fraction of the past.
WPIAL requirements with meet results were never realized in 2018-19 season.
PPS Obama Girls Swim Team suffering 6th consecutive year with another first-year coach in 2018-19.
Principal's grand-father coached the team without necessary certifications, again in 2019.
PPS teacher serving as 2018-19 Obama girls varsity swim coach was (her words) “bullied into the position.”
PPS job posting in January 2019, in third month of season, was seeking head boys swim coach.
Middle school boys coach had fleeting support from middle school girls coach (C.W.) in 2018-19.
Remove swim coaches from the PFT contract. Hire and manage swim coaches similar to the model deployed by PPS with UPMC Sports Medicine for athletic training services, non-negotiated roles beyond the PFT.
Appoint a PPS aquatics director to overhaul aquatics to better deploy the investments of public facilities in afternoons, evenings, nights, weekends, holidays, vacations, professional days and summers.
Begin district-wide supervision, permit approval, hiring, training, guarding, and coordination of swim instructors and community activities in hours beyond the school day at all PPS pools. Expect coaching staff coordination and accountability among elementary, middle-school and high school teams.
Harbor aquatics within the PPS Community Schools (department duties).
Build quality competitions and inspiring training opportunities for students, guardians and citizens such as All-City Sports Camps and Year-Round Achievers (not just Summer Dreamers) with new local-and-global partnerships.
Gear up for football's replacement (due to concussions, an emerging public health crisis) can be water polo, SKWIM and canoe water polo. Update PIAA letters on water polo co-ops among schools as requested, even with bordering districts.
Change PPS intramural policy to permit competitions among students at various schools.
Support athletic coaches with school IDs, email addresses, keys to all facilities, fields, and school door access including keys to: equipment storage spaces, light switches, ice machines, AED equipment, weight rooms, aerobic rooms, and install after-hours buzzers at near by outside doors.
Allow for modest upgrades: sound systems with AUX plugs, internet ports, security bobbers, pool vacuums, electronic timing, ADA accessibility standards. Obama pool is not ADA accessible. Need family changing room on same floor.
Think again about swim meet support with paid announcers, scoreboard operators, timing system operators such as the case with other sports. Give coaches / teams needed tech support with PPS computers, printers. Pay for TeamUnify software for record keeping, as per WPIAL rules.
Presently, PPS has less than 40 true swimmers. PPS could and should have 2,000+ dedicated swimmers. Diversity & Inclusion funding from national sources exists for local students in need. Insurance costs are now down to than $20 per athlete per year with USA Swimming's Flex Membership. Insurance might cost less via American Water Polo.