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Small schools in SCV bear athletic costs

Posted: August 19, 2013 10:41 p.m.
Updated: August 19, 2013 10:41 p.m.

After years of operating a successful 8-man football team, Santa Clarita Christian upgraded to an 11-man team in 2011.

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Everything is different for the small fish swimming in a pond full of big public schools.

According to the William S. Hart Union High School District’s projections for this school year, enrollment numbers at the Santa Clarita Valley’s six main public high schools range from roughly 2,200 students to about 3,100.

Compare that to the two local private high schools — Santa Clarita Christian and Trinity Classical Academy — which combine for about 275 total high school students.

Due to both the lack of public funding and the much smaller student body, the two private Christian schools have to find alternative ways to fund their athletics.

That usually means a lot of fundraising and a bigger price tag for athletes and their parents.

“That’s what makes it difficult for families in the private sector being that they’re paying tuition and then they’re paying for sports fees and then church fees,” said SCCS Athletic Director Ali Aguilar. “It’s very trying and difficult for some families.”

Take football, for instance, which is the most expensive sport according to school officials from both SCCS and Trinity.

Neither school has a home football field on campus, so both have to seek other venues for home games.

Renting a field typically costs about $1,000 for SCCS, Aguilar said. Tack on $450 to pay the referees and a few other miscellaneous costs and you’re out more than $1,500 for a single home football game.

That’s not to mention the price for equipment for each player, transportation and covering a small stipend paid to coaches.

Put simply, it’s expensive.

But Trinity co-founder and Managing Director Wally Caddow said there’s also an advantage to being one of the small fish.

He argues that private schools aren’t bound by the rules and regulations that go along with government funding.

Put simply, if Trinity can raise the money to start a sport, it will do so.

“From a funding standpoint, we’re back to a very market-driven capitalistic kind of model,” Caddow said. “If our families want to pay for it, then we do it.”

Trinity is heading into its fourth year of varsity athletics, and at 125 high school students, the school has plans for athletes to compete in 10 different CIF-sanctioned sports, possibly 11 with girls soccer still up in the air.

Hart District high schools each offer 16 sports (West Ranch has 17 with lacrosse), but that’s largely due to the fact that the higher enrollment can support more programs.

What public schools lack is the freedom to add new sports at will, Caddow said.

The best example is Trinity’s wrestling team that began competing last year.

The team sprung up after head coach Chris Leigh collaborated with a group of students and their families to start what is now the SCV’s only high school wrestling program.

“Every sport that we’ve started it’s because really there’s been a group of students or a coach who was really passionate about it,” Caddow said.

SCCS also continues to expand its athletics, adding a boys golf team for the first time in 2012.

This coming spring, the school also has plans to field a small swim team, which will put SCCS at 10 sports for approximately 150 high school students.

The only real requirement, other than it being approved by the CIF-Southern Section, for these schools to create a sports team is for it to be financially feasible.

With fundraising and fees charged to athletes, the programs need to become self-sustaining.

Both schools charge about $600 per season to play football, and that’s in addition to outside fundraising.

Neither team has had any trouble maintaining so far, though. SCCS upgraded from 8-man to become the valley’s only 11-man private school football team in 2011.

One ongoing issue for both schools is the lack of facilities.

Trinity isn’t able to host any team sports on campus, though there are plans in the works for the construction of a gym.

SCCS has a gym, but no outdoor sports fields on campus.

“It’s tough not having the facilities,” Aguilar said. “Sometimes they think (public schools are) bigger and better. Sometimes it may be. Sometimes it’s not.”

What Aguilar did emphasize was the importance of capable and committed coaches, like long-tenured football and baseball head coach Garrick Moss.

Moss coached SCCS to two CIF titles in football and one on baseball.

Trinity has already seen success in its first few years of varsity competition in sending its boys basketball team to a CIF final last winter.

As small private schools, SCCS and Trinity have to take different approaches to funding successful athletic programs than the public schools in town.

These small fish aren’t just surviving in this pond. They’re thriving.

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