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High School Sports Losing To Private Clubs

April 17, 2012 1:12 p.m.

Guests: Brian Hiro, sports reporter, North County Times

John Labeta, Assistant Commissioner, CIF San Diego

Related Story: High School Athletics Losing Out To Club Sports


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

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CAVANAUGH: For many years, club teams have been an alternative for San Diego kids involved in team sports. In the past, clubs would take children who sometimes were gifted athletes but off were kids who couldn't play the positions they wanted to on school teams. The clubs were seen as an additional activity and cannot compete with school athletics. Times have changed, and club teams are rearranging their schedules to run at the same time as high school baseball and soccer seasons. Some parents with cream creams of college scholarships for their kids are putting pressure on high school teams to play their student athletes like the club teams do. My guests, Brian Hiro has written a 2-part special report on the club team phenomenon for the North County Times. And Brian, welcome to the show.

HIRO: Hi, thank you.

CAVANAUGH: John Labeta is here, an assist onto commissioner for the CIF, the California interscholastic federation of San Diego, the group which sanctions high school athletics is also a parent and former high school coach. Welcome to the program

LABETA: Thank you very much.

CAVANAUGH: Brian, your series focuses on club sports versus high school athletics. Tell us what club sports are.

HIRO: In essence, club sports are just private for-profit companies that offer sports to kits of high school age, but also much younger, some of them down to age 6 now. They offer longer seasons than their high school counterparts, as long as ten months out of the iary, there's the promise of better coaching and stronger competition, although that's not a generalization.

CAVANAUGH: Are they the same thing as little league, for instance?

HIRO: I think it's just those things taken to the next helpful. All parents know about AYSO community soccer, but that's generally a short season of only a few months. Club sports is just a greater Emersion in are a sport that generally costs more money and is a higher level of competition.

CAVANAUGH: Now, which sports are we mostly talking about, Brian?

HIRO: Well, well, except for football, you name there's probably a club version of that sport.

CAVANAUGH: Why not football?

HIRO: Football is viewed as too physical, too taxing on the body, football is just something that really young bodies can only take for a few months, and then the off-season program for football is a lot of 88-lifting and noncontact passing league.

CAVANAUGH: Now, you made the point that club teams are for-profit operation, right? How much do they cost?

HIRO: The cost varies depending on what you're seeking out of them. Of the higher the cost means you go to more tournaments out of the region, even out of state, but I would say in general they can cost a few thousand dollars a year, just as an example of can a volleyball club, which is one of the top clubs in the county, ranges from $2,800.

CAVANAUGH: Now, you described how long the season is, etc., but why would a student athlete and their parents decide to go with a club team rather than just their own school team?

HIRO: Well, keep in mind they're starting these clubs at an age before they're getting to high school, so it's a way to get into a sport at a young age, and there's a perception like I said, and it's sometimes accurate, sometimes not, that club programs have better coaches, a higher level of competition, is that increasingly, colleges are doing their recruiting almost exclusively on the club side, in some sports. There are plenty of examples of kids who received scholarships without even needing to join their high school team.

CAVANAUGH: Wow, that's different. John, if a kid was envilled in youth soccer let's say 20 years ago, how is the experience then than now?

LABETA: Well, youth soccerized to be just AYSO, then they raised their levels as parents wanted more competition for their athletes. The change is the involvement of the club programs. They affect a lot of different programs. So it's changed considerably. I coached at the youth level about my daughter in AYSO, and loved that, but there was always the club coaches on the lines, looking for players that could make their team better. Even 15 years ago, this was starting to take place, it's just recently changed into where the high school athlete feels like they have to be part of the club program to either play collegiately or move on.

CAVANAUGH: And the seasons are now similar. The club teams have changed their seasons so that they run the same tomb as the school system seasons, and they used to do -- used to specifically not do that.

LABETA: Right.

PENNER: So that kids would be able to play for their school teams. Why are these changes being made?

LABETA: That's a good question. In the case of, BD baseball as Brian reported on, I think the parents are looking for something besides -- they either cant even make the shortstop position they have been playing since they started in little league or they feel they're not getting a competitive level at their high school so they want to find something that's more competitive for their student athlete. And the involvement. Soccer that's coming down for the program, it hasn't affected the women's program yet, but unfortunately student athletes make decisions on whether to play for their high school team or club team. And Brian did a great job of request teams who have switched clubs because they do want to play for their high school team. There's a lot to be gaped, the fact that you're wearing your jersey that you represent not only the school, but the administration, the entire district. And there's a lot of pride that takes place with putting that jersey on, and competing. I'd hate to see that be lost with the club programs putting pressure on high school athletes. And sometimes it's not even the athlete, in it's the parent who gets involved and say my son or daughter is so good they goat play with this team. I think that's great, but do they fake the time to listen to their son or daughter? And I think that's key. Are you really communicating with them? Or is this something that you're trying to relive?

CAVANAUGH: Brian, we've been referring to the special report club teams that you wrote for the North County Times. And John was referencing parents and students. What did you find that parts and students expect out of club teams?

HIRO: Well, some of them flat out expect a scholarship. They think if they spend this thousand dollars a year, that almost their child is entitled to a scholarship. And the problem is that scholarships are harder and harder to get because there's so much competition for them. I quoted a gentleman named jack in my story who runs a company called recruiting realities, and the cold hard facts are that less than 1% of all high school athletes receive fully-funded scholarships at the division 1 level, and that 85% of scholarships exist below the division 1 level. When you pay that amount of money increasingly, parents believe they're entitled to one.

CAVANAUGH: And there's an inference in your article, that since the club teams are for-

, they sometimes inflate the prospects or the ability of a child athlete to get parents to sign up and stay on board. Is that what people have been telling you?

HIRO: I was told that by many different sources. I asked one of the coaches directly, and he said well, that wouldn't make sense for us to do that because if you want to keep their business, you have to be honest with them. And I think that's a good point. And I think the long-established and prestigious clubs don't that. That probably happens in newer, less established clubs who are trying to get off the ground.

CAVANAUGH: Even though there was that less than 1% that goes into a division 1 scholarship, there are incredibly competitive club teams here in San Diegoe. You wrote about a women's volleyball team I think it was that has a tremendous age of scholarships that come out of it.

HIRO: That's the dichotomy in this situation. You have -- for girl's volleyball, this is the hub, this is the epicenter of where all the community colleges are coming. So if you're -- if you request afford coach volleyball club in Sorento valley or other ones in North County, then you do have a pretty good expectation for a scholarship. Because this is where the colleges come. And the contributor told me that I think it's closer to 70% of his high school senior girls who don't necessary he get scholarships but go on to play in college.

CAVANAUGH: John, how have club teams changed the way parents interact with high school coaches?

LABETA: Think there's high are expectations, and patients are more involved than they ever have been before. And there is some good on both sides the club programs give great exposure to athletes. We also have to remember that some of the scholarships that those athletes are getting are not necessarily scholarships. They are financial aid or when they're going to, you know, specific schools, some of those schools don't give scholarships, but they give the opportunity for that student to enter. The and I think parents' expectations have risen. They want to see their son or daughter playing the same potion they play on their club team.

CAVANAUGH: And they want to tell the coaches what to do, right?

LABETA: Right, because they may be a setter or outside, and for the home team, they may need to change that position, but only in volleyball but in everyone sport. Just about every sport has a club team, or somebody has somebody that's teaching them. Whether it's tennis, they have individual instructors. In swim, the highly competitive swimmers are swimming for club programs. And they try to get to the Olympics or do other things.

CAVANAUGH: You talk about -- that we're still talking about kids. And you say if a student athlete practices a couple of hours on a asked and answered for a school team, you don't necessarily think they should be allowed to go out to work for a few more hours that day for a chub team. Why?

LABETA: Well, I think they still have to be young adults. They have to be given some time. And part of that is the body just doesn't recover. You're going to spend 2.5 hours at a high school practice. Most of the time, it could be thee hours. Three hours is the maximum amount of time they can spend. Then they would -- some of the club coaches would then have them come to their practices. As a former coach, I request remember coaching soft ball, when there was a time in the CIF section, when athletes could participate with their club programs. They'd come back after a Sunday workout so sore and tired that Monday was a nonfactor day for me. And I did communicate with the club coaches saying doing my best job I possibly K. But you're wearing my athletes out. And our season is about putting the best athletes out on the field and competing for our school. Of so we did have those discussions. And I think they need time to recover. They need time to do their studies. Half these student athletes are staying up till 1:00, 2:00 in the morning,, going to school at 6:30, and going to a study group at school. So they are already really taking much of their time away from themselves.

CAVANAUGH: I want to ask about affluence, and how that acts whether someone is on a club team. Students in less affluent areas of San Diego, are they unable to afford club teams? And are we seeing school sports evolve into a 2-tier system. ?

HIRO: I think you're starting to see that. And there are some probably inexpensive club teams out there, but you probably get what you pay for. And if they are less expensive, you're probably not getting the same out of it. Of the top clubs cost a lot of money, and they tend to draw from affluent areas. One of the approximate prime areas would be in the Torrey Pines, Cathedral, like, la Costa Corridor, and it's no coincidence, that Torrey pines and La Costa Canyon are top high school teams in almost every sport. Those kids have an advantage going into high school, they have been playing club sports since they were 8 years old, and a lot of their kids specialize. So the girls who focus on high school volleyball, that's all they play, and when they get to high school, they have so much seasoning and experience beds just don't natural early talent, and that just means that certain teams can't keep up.

CAVANAUGH: Do you think that this is going to club school sports? That club teams are going to continue and the school scholastics are just going to change because of it?

LABETA: I would hope not. Are unfortunately what you see is the club programs start at a young age as Brian mentioned. 6-year-olds, they're saying maybe you should come out and start to learn how to play vocal wall and you shouldn't do other sports. As a former athletic director at la costa canyon I know we encouraged them to do more than one sport. By the time you're a junior or sophomore, you probably figured out what's your best sport. But there is a lot of explanation going on, trying to talk athletes to come out and play another sport, they're interested, but their club coaches can at times will say no, you can't misour practices to be with your school team. That is something that is really wrong with the club program, and I think they should be able to do both. And I think high school coaches are willing to work with club coaches that oftentimes club coaches aren't willing to work with the high school ketches.