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January 2, 2014     Shelton Mason County Journal
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January 2, 2014

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RUGBY Continued from page B-1 "Coaches expect committ- ment to their sports," Judson explained. He could not estimate the rugby coaches' stipends because they would need to be negotiated with the Shelton Athletic and Ac- tivities Association (SAAA). He also was not able to give an ex- act figure for the groundskeeping costs for the field at Oakland Bay Junior High School for rugby. The cost to play per athlete was estimated at $198. Stu- dents on free or reduced-price lunch would pay $168, while free or reduced-price lunch stu- dents at OBJH would pay $153. The boys' team and girls' team would also be required to pay $150 to RugbyWA - an organization that governs high school rugby in Washington -- to participate. Judson told the board that previous rugby coaches Chris Nesmith and his wife Kasey Robbins had already paid the 2014 team fee for the U19 girls. Nesmith and Robbins had also donated about 100 jerseys for the program that all read "Shelton Rugby" on :the front, which would be appropriate for competition with the school. The coaches had also donat- ed about 20 practice rugby balls. During his report, Judson highlighted a problem. Al- though the position had been advertised for most of the fall, no one had applied to be the rugby coach. Another issue that could have posed a problem for the program was if the girls' team didn't have enough players turn out, but the boys' team did. Having a boys' rugby team but not girls' rugby team would put the school out of compliance with Title IX because more teams would be available for boys than girls, Judson said during his report. Judson also addressed sched- uling problems. Through Rug- byWA, girls' rugby matches are played on Sunday. However, SHS leaves Sundays free for athletes to spend at home. To maintain this, the rugby teams would have had to schedule their own matches and ensure officials were available for them. A final problem with adding rugby as a varsity sport was that it had not received ASB ap- proval yet and therefore was not ASB-affiiated. "If they're working with the ASB and fundraising, they need to be part ofASB," Judson said. "I wish we'd had this analy- sis back in June," board mem- ber Gene Crater said. "It brings a lot of questions and this is De- cember. My concern is we have costs for kids, the ASB is over- loaded with clubs that have to make money. We have a lot of concerns here that we're going to address today?" Community voices opinions Before the board heard Jud- son's presentation, the public weighed in. Attorney Brent Nourse with Paramount Law Group of Se- attle reminded the board of the letter he said he sent them June 13, in which he outlined Title IX. "Currently, there is a (rugby) club, but it doesn't receive the same benefits as boys' football," Nourse said at the Dec. 10 meet- ing. He addressed the concerns he said he had heard from the Shelton community regard- ing the $30,000 that the school board set aside for rugby. Because rugby was not re- ceiving money from ASB, he said the ASB was not required to take action on rugby. Nourse said a letter to the editor in the Dec.5 issue of the Mason County Journal -- titled "Concern over rugby program" - mainly addressed using mon- ey to correct current issues such as the lack of a softball field at SHS, but those issues had noth- ing to do with the money the board had set aside. "Currently, there is no sport provided for girls that provides the same skills and level of com- petition for girls as football," Nourse said. Zack Clark, a coach for the Shelton rugby 7s program in the summer, spoke to the board as well. Clark said Shelton High School could be one of the schools to start rugby and have other schools follow in its footsteps. The final for-rugby com- ments came from SHS junior Brian Nault, who has played rugby since he was 13. "I was all about football and thought rugby could help with football," Nault said. "My char- acter has built from this. I've traveled the world, supporting my country. It's a great stepping stone." At this meeting, Shelton resident Irene Goldsby was the only community member not involved with SHS to speak against making rugby a varsity sport. "I am not opposed to kids playing rugby," Goldsby said. "This is going to be taking mon- ey from the sports the school al- ready has. Thirty thousand dol- lars for a new sport that doesn't even compete with other schools doesn't make a whole heck of sense. If other schools want to start rugby, fine. But a club sport should stay a club sport until other schools have teams." Goldsby wrote the letter Nourse mentioned. She said that if her daugh- ters were current students in the Shelton School District, she'd have the board in court. "The softball team doesn't have a field or clubhouse, but baseball has both," Goldsby stated. "This school had been negligent in getting the softball field done." A break in procedure Goldsby's comments were not the first time the board heard objections to its August decision. Since the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, the ASB of- ricers, with their adviser Chris- tie Zakem, have been trying to work with the board to send rugby through the proper pro- cedure to become a sport. The ASB has maintained that be- cause its decision on rugby was tabled, the school board broke procedure by allotting the club $30,000 to start a pilot program. On Oct. 31, ASB officers Sage Hughes, the school board repre- sentative, President Meghan Ranney and Sergeant at Arms Ryder Phelan and Zakem met with the Journal to discuss their concerns regarding the board's decision. "We haven't had an oppor- tunity to decide (on rugby)," Phelan said with Hughes add- ing that the ASB tabled the dis- cussion in June. %Ve'd already done the bud- get in May and couldn't change it for this school year," Zakem said. Phelan explained the process that any club, activity or sport needs to go throug h to become official at the school. "(They) would need prin- cipal  approval, then go to the ASB, then to the school board and then the ASB would follow- through," he said. "The school board procedure is that they don't create anything without ASB approval." "Otherwise, what's'the point of ASB?" Hughes asked. Zakem said the rugby group went through a different chan- nel because it is a sport. Rugby players first sent out a petition to see whether students would want rugby at SHS. The filled- out petition went to Judson and then to Zakem. Zakem said she gave the proper forms to fill out to the rugby group. "It's fine because they're working toward being a varsity sport, but we didn't see the pro- cess until two days before the June meeting," Zakem said. The ASB tabled the rugby discussion June 10. "They went to the school board and the school board said 'yes' and decided to make it their own thing," Phelan said. "They designated school board funds to make it happen and told SHS administration to make it hap- pen." Hughes said she was not at the board's meeting in the sum- mer because she was out of town. "Usually, I'm sent an enve- lope with what they're going to do and I didn't receive that (for the meeting)," Hughes said. Zakem said school board representatives have not been invited to summer board meet- ings in the past so the students can enjoy their summer breaks. Hughes said if she had known the board was going to discuss rugby, she would have sent an alternate to the meeting. "We were told mid-August it had been approved and they were given funding," Zakem said. "When we left in June, we had tabled it so it shouldn't have gone to the school board based on the ASB constitution and the school board policy." After tabling its decision, the ASB became the subject of a rumor in the school that the officers had been coached to say "no" to rugby. 'e haven't said no,' "Phel- an stated. "We aren't coached to do anything," Hughes denied. "Ms. Zakem is a great teacher, but we're capable of making these decisions on our own." "Sometimes, I'm a little of- fended by that rumor because we're a mature group that makes our own decisions," Ran- ney added. SAAA objections The school board had also heard objects from the the Shel- ton Athletic and Activities Asso- ciation (SAAA). On behalf of the SAAA, rep- resentative Chad Youngquist sent the school board a letter Sept. 14 about its rugby deci- sion. In his letter, Youngquist re- quested clarification from the school board on its decision to allot $30,000 to rugby. He said at Shelton High School staff was confused about the board's decision and what it meant. At the school board's Sept. 24 meeting, SHS head volleyball coach Steve Beck spoke, ques- tioning the allocation of $30,000 to rugby. According to the school beard minutes: "Steve said the ques- tion is: Are decisions made to grant money to a new sport, not knowing the many sacrifices coaches make to fund their cur- rent sports, or is there district money out there and no one told them (SAAA)? He said ei- ther one stings him as a coach. Funding is a constant issue and we need a process that works." In early October, Beck told the Journal he has been a head coach for longer than any other coach in the school district. With knowledge from his 35 years as a head coach, Beck out- lined the three levels a sport can compete. He said a sport can be in the community, a school club or a varsity sport. "I don't think the rugby com- munity understands if they go to a varsity team, the restric- tions that puts on them," he said. "Older athletes won't be able to play, there will be re- strictions on the season, who can coach and when they can coach and funding is complex. You gain some things, but you give up some, too." As a community sport, rugby would have a national govern- ing body but be run differently. These sports are usually private and they struggle at times to work with schools and find fa- cilities. In its current form as a school club, the sport can be intramu- ral but it's often organized with other dubs. "More often it's left to the school to manage rather than a general association," Beck explained. "There's less district money, but there's easier facil- ity access. The sport can strug- gle with identity and what rules to follow. Often, there's an un- defined territory and usually it has a group of driven kids." As a varsity sport, rugby would follow traditional rules. "There's tax-payer support, but lots of rules in all areas in- cluding contact, time, grades, money and travel," Beck said. He said the question was: Where is the best fit for rugby? In September, Youngquist told the Journal that in 2011, the SAAA voted for coaches to take pay cuts to keep all sports at SHS. At that time, the SAAA also requested that pay-to-play fees be eliminated. 'e felt that pay-to-play was a deterrent to many of our ath- letes," Youngquist explained. "Pay-to-play generates $20,000. We have $30,000 to start a new sport?" Youngqust said that varsity coaches should do fundraising to augment their programs. However, the teams have been fundraising for basic needs for the program. %Ve all have to augment our team uniforms," Youngquist said. "It's wrong when we have to pay for basic needs with fund- raising. We requested addition- al money for budgets and were told it was non-negotiable. That didn't bother us because 50 per- cent of our athletes are free or reduced price lunch. Probably 70 percent of our kids are strug- gling financially at home." He said the SAAA was not opposed to rugby. "But we're not OK with $30,000 being allocated for something new and shiny when we need our basic needs met," he said. Rugby community responds By Dec. 16, the rugby com- munity had begun work on its response to the school board's decision. Nourse, attorney for the girls' team, said it appeared to him and the team that nothing had been done during the past six months to move rugby along in the process of becoming a sport. "Neither the superintendent, athletic director or anyone else actually did anything," Nourse said. "From what I understand, the athletic director was un- able to provide any field main- tenance costs or to negotiate with the SAAA for the coaches' stipends costs." He said it seemed to him that the administration dragged its feet. "The next step probably will have to be going to court," Nourse added. 'The school board's decision to scrap the project and the administration dragging its feet appear to us to be violations of the Equal Rights Amendment and the Federal Civil Rights Act." He said a large number of girls in the school district are interested in playing a contact sport similar to football, but the school district is not providirlg the opportunity for them to do so. This is a violation of Title IX, Nourse said. "The girls provided the peti- tion last year for approval and ASB tabled it and refused to vote on it," Nourse said. "The girls have done all they can. The school has put up a number of hurdles." SHS senior Karli Burbridge, a captain for the girls' rugby team, said she didn't under- stand why the process was so difficult. '%Ve'rejust like any other sport trying to play and have tim," Bur- bridge said. "It sucks how some clubs get recognized when they're not part of the school, but rugby doesn't when the girls' team took second in state." Although Burbridge said she wants recognition from the school for rugby's accomplish- ments, she said she and about half the girls' team are on the fence about wanting rugby to be an official school sport. "I would like it to be a school sport if we still get to do what we did as a club," she said. "It wasn't as strict (as SHS varsity sports)." She cited co-ed practices, games were scheduled on weekends and teams practic- ing about three times a week as examples of what she wouldn't want to change. "I don't want rugby to change in Shelton so we're the odd ones out (with other Washington rugby teams)," she said. "A lot of girls are kind of borderline with me. We're at the point where we just want to play." She said the team doesn't have a coach and has been told so many conflicting statements about the future of rugby that it's all unstructured right now. "I just want to know what's actually going down," Burbridge said. Nourse said he thought the school board's decision was un- fortunate. "Here's a group of girls that just want the same benefits and recognition as the boys and for whatever reason, the school board doesn't want to give it to them," he said. Mason County Journal - Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014 - Page B-5 - T - i  7 -