All posts in "Schools"

Use our schools. The Brits are kicking our tails.

Published a couple of months ago in Elsewhere , Pittsburgh , Schools , Support - 0 Comments

Macro and Micro views from around the globe

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. 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.

The Talent Plan in GBR sports

Drilling down on the personalities of the youth

This video talks about the different motivations and viewpoints from different kids. Frankly, the slogan that fits often is "Different strokes for different folks."

Weekends are necessary for sporting success

Published 10 months ago in Pittsburgh , PPS , Schools , Support , Swimming - 0 Comments

Being fit, and being an athlete, requires weekend workouts. 

Kids and families want the weekend workouts. 

Hill District Rebels practice group

Age group football teams gather on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year. This is a posting on Facebook in March calling for weekend practices -- and it is liked by more than 50 people.

Winter Tri Practices

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!

Videos and images of an indoor Tri workout with work on transitions in the gym

Weekend Tri Practice at Slippery Rock University with the group from Joella.

The swim pool at Obama Academy sits empty on Saturdays and Sundays. No swimming allowed. No pool permit ever permitted by the schools principals.

Not at Pittsburgh Obama, however

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

Go figure.

Frustrations hurt the students. In the 2017-18 season, the lack of permits for use of the swimming pool also was extended to AM Swim Practices, something that was done for the prior 10 years. 

Varsity squad on Saturday, January 13, 2013 at Arsenal Middle School because the Obama Principal would not grant access to the varsity swimmers at their own, home pool.

Varsity squad on Saturday, January 19, 2013 at Arsenal Middle School because the Obama Principal would not grant access to the varsity swimmers at their own, home pool.

“Be There” campaign from the United Way featured a video of our routine for AM Swim Practice

Published 11 months ago in Pittsburgh , PPS , Schools , Support , Swimming , Video - 0 Comments
Be there logo with the United Way

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

PPS Students at Obama and Sci Tech were familiar with early morning swim practices 

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.

All morning swim practices at Obama Academy ended after Principal Colbert was hired. She killed them. 

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. 

  • Could not get a permit for AM swim practices at Obama.
  • Could not get a permit for any Saturday swim practices at Obama.
  • Could not get a permit for after-school water polo in September and October at Obama.
  • Could not get a permit for holiday practices at Obama, until the good folks at central administration stepped in. 
  • Could not get a permit for practices on the plentiful half-days of school with the students when the teachers do professional development. 

Sci-Tech Swimmers had AM Practices throughout the season

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 2019 update, a new contest from a new school:

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. 

Poking my PPS Board Member, Cynthia Falls, with some updates on PPS swimming

Published last year in Pittsburgh , PPS , Schools , Support , Swimming - 1 Comment


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. 

Four girl relay Qualifiers for WPIAL Meet, first girls relay in Obama School History

Every year for a decade while I was coaching PPS Schenley and the Obama swimming team a swimmer or more went to the state meet. This year I am not there, and I doubt if a swimmer even made it to the DISTRICT meet. Correct me if I am wrong! Meet entry deadline looms large.

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:

1) Legacy,

2) Recent past,

3) Present, and

4) Future.

  • Legacy
  • Recent Past
  • Present
  • Future

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.

Coach Mark Rauterkus:
  • Began swim team with PPS Phillips. Sons swam at Phillips, Frick, Schenley, Obama.
  • Schenley HS got city team title and record breakers.
  • Served on Mark Roosevelt era Athletic Reform Task Force.
  • Authored position paper to Dr. Lane and PPS Board, Fewer Sports Alternatives. Avoided cuts
  • First city team in any sport to win a WPIAL section, Obama Boys Varsity Swim Teams
  • Coached first city athlete in any sport to get WPIAL gold medal and set a WPIAL record
  • Offered 8 years of support with Summer Dreamers with Swim & Water Polo
  • Teaches / trains 200+ city kids in swimming each year
  • Sent PPS student-athletes to PIAA swim championships every season for 9 years