The landscape of high school sports has changed dramatically over the past 50 years in the United States. Long ago, it was simple. You played for the school in the town you lived in. It was a matter of school pride.
These days, however, with college scholarships and even multimillion-dollar contracts with professional teams in the balance, any local loyalty is pretty much out the window.
Now a student athlete or, more so, his or her parents, have to determine where there is the best chance to play under big-budget programs, be trained by successful coaches and ultimately be recruited by scouts. Families often make the somewhat insane decision to relocate to a different city, or even state, to increase a kid’s small chance of success in the sports. Private schools’ increased popularity has just as much to do with their emphasis on sports as it once did on their focus on education or religion, for that matter.
To put it in Hollywood-speak, the innocent days of Hoosiers are long gone. Welcome to Friday Night Lights.
Locally, of course, high school sports are wildly popular, as last weekend’s Buena vs. Ventura alumni football game can attest. Police even had to set up electronic trailer signs encouraging rowdy fans and players to “Cheer Without Beer,” basically reminding them that even though they are now older than 21, it’s still illegal to drink on school grounds. The event, proving high school sports mania doesn’t necessarily end when one leaves high school, saw battered adults in high school jerseys limping off the field, into trucks and straight over to Cronies to ice down beer mugs not bodies.
With that said, there’s a new school in town that will be entering the wild and often wacky world of high school athletics, Ventura’s Foothill Technology High School.
It’s surprising, especially since tech schools, in many ways, grew in popularity by appealing to students who tended to have more on their minds than sports. Nonetheless, Principal Joe Bova estimates that more than 300 students at Foothill participate in athletic programs at neighboring Buena and Ventura High Schools, and the school will now be starting its very own CI- registered sports teams.
To Foothill’s credit, it is going big out of the gate with a multitude of different sports for boys and girls. While there are no plans for the holy grail of high school sports, a football team, there’s virtually every other sport you can think of, including, baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field, volleyball and water polo.
What’s also great for current Foothill students participating on Buena or Ventura High School sports teams, is that they will be allowed to choose where to play. They can potentially help establish and most likely star on one of their school’s new teams or stay with their current and more high-profile teams at Buena or Ventura.
What Bova and company are already turning heads for are the coaches they are hiring. Already on board to helm the cross country programs is two-time national high school coach of the year Ken Reeves, who boasts 11 state championships in his career. Former Ventura College coach Brad McCain will head the tennis programs, and that’s just the start of what promises to be an impressive roster of professional coaches and assistants.
Foothill has also started an advisory board of community leaders and organizations to help with the search for coaches and to help guide and grow the program long term.
Foothill may be new to the game, no pun intended, but it clearly means business; and when it comes to enrollment, support and often survival for a school, these days sports play a big role, if not the biggest.
For more information on Foothill’s next athletic programs, visit www.foothilltechnology.org/faq-foothill-athletics