The budget isn’t the only thing being cut

April 23, 2009 02:04 pm

I have been holding back for a while now, but it’s time I say something.

Budget cuts are engulfing the area faster than anyone could have predicted and it’s becoming a little scary.


Recently high schools have been hit and have been forced to make some difficult choices.

La Grande and Union are considering the elimination of some athletics.

I’m not here to say cut the science or music programs instead because I can’t imagine being in the position to make these decisions. I’d just like to express my opinion and say how unfortunate it would be to cut these programs.

Sports may seem like the easiest thing to cut and just an extracurricular activity, but it is much more than that.

I’ll begin with the athletes. They are obviously the most affected by this. It’s easy to come to the conclusion that the most talented kids who were in line for a college scholarship lose the most, but there’s another group that may be overlooked.

How about the kids at the end of the bench who want nothing more than to be on the team?

You’re not just cutting the games; sports go far beyond what happens on the field or court. Overnight stays at hotels, bus rides to games, eating at restaurants as a team. There is a bonding of friendships and memories made well before or after a whistle sounds.

How many lessons are taught through sports? Teamwork, leadership and how to deal with losses are just a few that can be taken away from games.

The experiences gained through athletics are unique, but not just for the athletes.

Friday nights in the fall are special to high school students. It’s a night after a full week of classes that friends gather and watch their school compete in a football game. But, it’s the social aspect of the game that keeps people coming out.

It brings communities together. It unites alumni with teenagers.

Let’s find a way to keep the lights on Friday nights.

If Union does cut its fall sports, then it loses a dynasty. The Bobcats have united a small town through its cross country running.

Let’s not take away the smiling faces awaiting the bus to return from the state championship meet on Main Street.

There may not be two more caring athletic directors in the state than Teresa Stratton and Jim Martin. They have quietly made many young lives better.

Martin can be seen at events joking with the student section and Stratton genuinely relates with the students as if she was one.

I don’t envy the shoes they have to walk in, but I admire how well they do their jobs.

We all need to find a way to keep sports in this area. Fundraising, donations or something needs to happen. I understand the economy is bad, but we can’t use it as a crutch or an excuse any longer.

Instead of buying that margarita or quesadilla maker, let’s put that money to good use.

Let’s at least allow the kids to be able to play at another high school. It takes away from the community getting involved, but at least the students have the chance to play.

What about the creation of a “Union County High School?” It would only be for these athletes without a home. It would not be a school, just a sports club. Let the students stay at their own school, but play for this AAU-like team.

I don’t mean to sound ignorant or like I don’t understand the financial situations of the school, because I do. All I ask is that we try something else.

Or there will be no more lights on a Friday night. No more bus rides back to Union escorted by fire trucks. No more memories that can last a lifetime.

Barrett Henderson is a sports writer for The Observer. Reach him by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it