Let’s replicate the model deployed for the district’s Athletic Trainers and apply it to AQUATICS.

All high schools with scholastic-sports teams within Pittsburgh Public Schools have athletic trainers that help to care for the health and wellness of the PPS student-athletes. These athletic trainers are present for practices and competitions. They serve boys-and-girls and work among various venues.

Presently, the existing model for the Athletic Trainers deployed at Pittsburgh Public Schools is great. I love it. It works well. I’ve always been grateful of the support received from the Athletic Trainers. The model for the service delivery provides a huge assets and support for the athletes, coaches, guardians and administrators.

The athletic trainers, with the initials, A.T.C., after their names, are professionals, academically trained and certified. They get continuing education and are hired, managed and evaluated from a central office. The division head for athletics in Pittsburgh Public Schools, Mr. Mike Gavlik. He supervises the service contract for athletic training with UPMC Sports Medicine. The contract details the services rendered so that the school principals and coaches do not need to worry about coverage from the athletic trainers. A well executed, district-wide approach makes great sense. It is efficient and effective. Bravo to you all for such wonderful results.

Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh Public Schools, in AQUATICS, a much different model and resulting outcomes are unfolding.

With our swim teams and with our programs at the various PPS swim pools in after-school hours programs, everything is site-based. Site-based aquatic programming isn’t working, IMNSHO (in my not so humble opinion).

Pittsburgh Public Schools (and taxpayers) have 15, indoor, swim pools within our schools. My audit and experiences show that we are lucky to get two-percent of the value in community benefits of our paid-for facilities in OUT-OF-SCHOOL TIME activities.

I am worried about activities, programs, leadership and opportunities offered our kids and the communities at the pools in afternoons, evenings, nights, weekends, holidays, vacations and throughout the weeks of summer.

Most of the time, the pools sit idle. They are closed.

To be clear, what happens in Physical Education in the normal school day is not a concern of this suggested proposal.

Just as UPMC Sports Medicine handles system-wide needs for athletic training, PPS needs a system-wide approach to what happens in the swimming pools beyond the school day.

The engagement for the students, the competitive swimmers, and the communities is suffering and an overhaul of purpose, methods, programming, hiring responsibilities and mission in AQUATICS is needed and can be delivered with an AQUATICS DIRECTOR.

Take these tasks off the backs of the school principals.

Let’s deploy a system and thrive. Let’s train lifeguards, compete around the region, and deliver serious health and wellness benefits.

One of the most simple and direct paths for implementation of this suggestion is to attach AQUATICS to the budding PPS Community Schools network. The new PPS Community Schools program began in the fall of 2017. This trailblazing program that was championed by the PPS School Board before the arrival of the existing superintendent, Dr. Anthony Hamlet, aims to form a model for increased engagement and cooperation among community agencies, school staff, students and families. The first five designated community schools in PPS include three schools with under-utilized swimming pools: Westinghouse, Arsenal, Langley. The PPS Board made a dramatic step to embrace the concept of PPS Community Schools, as a pilot, among five of its schools. These suggestions for AQUATICS go hand-in-hand with the efforts of PPS Community Schools. Let’s make a splash with AQUATICS with PPS Community Schools.

Let’s coordinate human resources among lifeguards, swim instructors, coaches, rec organizations and have an aquatic mission that fits the various facilities and interests of the kids and grows as they improve.

Our students need to know that their devotion and investment into swimming is supported. The un-tapped potential within Pittsburgh’s kids in aquatics is phenomenal. But, we as coaches and administrators, we need to be nimble at the pools and offer excellent programs. Aquatics can be a vital cornerstone for PPS Community Schools.

These programs can pull their own weight financially. Creative and inspiring leadership coupled with important partnerships can make the AQUATICS programs sustainable.

To implement the vision, the Administration and PPS Board negotiators should carve out AQUATICS from the realm of the PFT Contract. Assigning coaching duties, instructors and lifeguards need to be fluid and flexible, coordinated and well deployed. Accountability, certifications, and alignments to systems, squads and developmental pathways need to make sense.

Go figure: Last year, a swim meet between Obama and Allderdice as impossible to schedule.

A four-fold increase in both quantity and quality is expected as a first-year bump.

In 2017, PPS has about 250 kids who swim. With the pools we have, PPS could have 1,000+ kids calling themselves swimmers.

Going swimming and being a swimmer are different.

We want to turn around the opportunities so our kids become:

  1. scholarship student-athletes,
  2. employed at the pools,
  3. competitors with anyone, and
  4. know how to play well with others.

Progress should happen in 2018. Let’s make it happen. Your reactions in the comments below are welcome.

Asking Pittsburgh Public Schools to switch funding at Obama from golf to water polo

Expanded testimony from October 18, 2016

Mark Rauterkus
Mark Rauterkus

I am Mark Rauterkus, Mark@Rauterkus.com, of Pittsburgh’s South Side. I coach for the district and was on the PPS Athletic Reform Task Force, inactive for more than five years. My sons graduated from PPS and are in college.

I speak at public hearings and attend many community and government meetings around town often, generally as an advocate for system-wide issues. Today, is different. I have a specific request for the superintendent and/or school board members. This request does benefit dozens, if not hundreds, of students in the future.

Environment

River of support with or without obstructions
River of support with or without obstructions

I’m here because the chain-of-command from school athletic director, principal and district athletic office are not inclined to make these changes themselves. The mechanism for making changes to our athletic landscape from within the system are still absent. Furthermore, the desire to reconvene district-wide athletic reform is absent among certain key employees. Perhaps sports reform and an evolution of opportunities is going to change in the months to come with the new board and superintendent. Time will tell. I have high hopes.

I do receive a “river of support” from various people within PPS. Sadly, significant, often predictable and inexplicable obstructions appear. We’ve learned how to navigate around a few of them in the last decade. But, in my view, we still have oceans full of challenges regarding after-school, sports, wellness and the issues that revolve around the leading of quality programs for our students.

Present fall snapshot

Saturday Swim School, week 3
Saturday Swim School, week 3

Presently, I’m coaching Swim & Water Polo to 100+ city-kids, both boys and girls, generally in co-ed settings. Most of these kids are in the middle-school grades.

  • 30 at the charter school,
  • 20 at Arsenal,
  • 20 at Obama,
  • 20, so far, at the Saturday Swim School held at Oliver Citiwide High School.
    More are welcome and expected on Saturdays. See the hand-out.
  • Plus, about 30 are gearing up for the varsity teams.
Group photo of Obama MS water polo players and coach in fall 2016
More than 25 Obama middle school water polo players were gearing up for games in the fall of 2016. Here we are at the pool at the Kingsley Center for an intra-squad game.

Recent summer’s snapshot

We had 50 students in Swim & Water Polo at Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Summer Dreamers Academy in 2016. Sadly we got stuck at Carmalt without a pool and needed to take bus rides every day to Brashear High School. We have successfully coached 200 Summer Dreamers in 2015, (and nearly that many in prior summers). We should be trending to serve more than 500 kids every summer at Swim & Water Polo within Summer Dreamers, in my humble opinion.

Another 90 kids, grades 1 to 9, played Swim & Water Polo as part of their summer camp experience thanks to the support of The Pittsburgh Project on Pittsburgh’s Northside.

My coaching is a labor of love for very little money that reaches lots of kids for many days. We are teaching kids how to swim and then we pull out the water disks and balls and build teams and push them into experiences as aquatic athletes.

Here and There

Plenty of this occurs with volunteer efforts, but some funding considerations are necessary. This year a $2,500 discrepancy surfaced with the Summer Dreamers contract because PPS staff shortages necessitated my hire of additional coaches. That’s a sizable chunk of money in this endeavor. This is an issue for another day, sorta.

This fall, I’m at five different pools, off and on, and I’m only talking about OUT OF SCHOOL TIME, not in-school Physical Education.

Swim squad at Arsenal Middle School
Squad at Arsenal Middle School

Pool Capacity

Pittsburgh Public Schools owns and operates 14 indoor swim pools. These pools, public assets, sit idle often, especially after-school days, in the evenings, at nights, on weekends, throughout holidays and in the summers. I think only two of the 14 pools were used in very limited hours on some days this summer. My calculations claim that the capacity for training swimmers, in these outside-the-school-day opportunities should reach more than 6,000 individuals every year. We might engage 600 now.

Water polo ball at side of pool, in the shallow end. We often play "bottom friendly water polo" with kids who are just learning how to swim.
Water polo ball at side of pool, in the shallow end. We often play “bottom friendly water polo” with kids who are just learning how to swim.

The investments to build these pools has been made. We own them. We manage them. We have closed a few of them in recent years, such as Reizenstein, Schenley, Prospect, South, Knoxville, Gladstone. But the point to stress with these school pools is that they are cement and tile structures filled with water, and the water in those swim pools does not wear out. In my biased opinion, these swim pools are nearly indestructible, and as classrooms, the swim pools are the best learning laboratories our kids might ever encounter when it comes to teaching them lessons of personal and group excellence.

Meanwhile

In the fall of 2016, there was ONE student on the Obama golf team.

In the fall of 2016 and 2015, NONE of the Obama golfers even went to the city championships.

I was Obama’s Golf Coach

I know about golf at Obama, because, I coached that team for two seasons in 2012 and 2013.

Obama Golf Team at Steps of School
Past Obama Golf Team with Coach Rauterkus at steps of school. Bus in the background, because we had to bus to practices and matches.
Golfers meet at a course
Golfers from various teams meet at a course
Golfers
Older photo: District 8, Golf Championships Finalist with city golfers except Allderdice, a team that played in the WPIAL that year.
Golfers at The Bob O'Connor Course
Golfers at The Bob O’Connor Course

The ask:

I’m asking for the PPS Board and Superintendent to PULL the plug on Varsity GOLF at Obama and redirect the sports budget for golf to water polo at Obama. Both golf and water polo are fall sports.

Replace the golf team (and its one athlete) with water polo and gain 20 to 60 kids on teams next year. We’ll have boys and girls water polo teams at the varsity, junior varsity and middle school levels.

Kids grow

More than 20 middle school students, mostly girls, at Obama Academy, played water polo in the fall of 2016. The 2016-17 middle school swim teams grew in participation, in part, due to water polo too. Some of the water polo players and competitive swimmers were former players in Swim & Water Polo as part of Summer Dreamers.

dscf3421

Well, … we should have had middle-school water polo games in the fall of 2016, but the pool was closed for a three week period for a needed electrical inspection.

In the spring of 2016, I volunteered and taught more than 15 6th grade boys how to swim and play water polo. We had three times as many kids and as many practices with the optional, spring water polo as the Obama Middle School Swim Team did with its official winter season. These same kids are still excited as 7th graders. Our reach with water polo this year has grown to include kids in all the middle-school grades.

I think they deserve a funded and supported high school water polo team to look forward too.

We have a swim pool. We don’t have a golf course.

We have the demand for water polo. Golf has gone down the drain at Obama.

Water polo will keep our kids engaged, fit and excited about swimming. Water polo will help the swim teams and get many kids to learn to swim and one-day become lifeguards.

Neutral

A modest budget is necessary to cover costs for uniforms, officials, travel, equipment and a coach. But we’re cutting golf expenses.

Build Upon Our Success in the Pool

Podium of 100 back in 2017 at WPIALs
Obama swimmer at the top of the podium, again, at the WPIAL Championships. Plus, he set a WPIAL record, the first ever from a PPS student.

Golf can survive

Transfer

Truth be told, Pittsburgh Public Schools does not really need to eliminate golf opportunities. The solution I’m proposing does not pit one sport against another. Looking deeper, let’s make this a win-win with some level-headed reforms.

The easiest understanding is an awareness that kids and families vote with their feet. If a student wants to play golf, that student can enroll in Allderdice High School. Families depart the city school all the time due to the disparity of the athletic opportunities presented at city school when contrasted to most of the suburban schools. Allerdice is closer to the Bob O’Connor Golf Course in Schenley Park and that school has a much better tradition of golf than all the other schools in the district. Still, there is no girls golf team at Allderdice. Golf at Allderdice could use the extra players and support.

Older photo: Obama Golf Squad when coach by Mark Rauterkus
Older photo: Obama Golf Squad when coach by Mark Rauterkus

Cooperate

Additionally, Pittsburgh Public Schools could tinker with the sports co-op agreements among Allderdice High School, Obama Academy and Sci-Tech with golf so that students from all three schools could compete in varsity golf for Allderdice. If a CAPA student who resides within the Allderdice feeder pattern wants to play golf at Allderdice, he or she can join the team. Same with a home-schooled student. Students who go to Obama could join the Allderdice golf squad too if the co-op is formed and the letters are sent to the PIAA (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Assocation) office.

Two way Cooperation with Water Polo and Golf

Likewise let’s leverage the co-op agreements in Water Polo as is suggested for Golf.

Co-op sports agreements should be floated so interested students at Allderdice can join Obama’s Water Polo Teams.

This happens frequently in suburban districts. One school district offers a swim team while the other school district offers a wrestling team. Then, kids from both school districts can do both sports. A majority of the swim teams in the WPIAL Class AA Section that includes Obama Academy are co-op teams. Carlynton High School has a pool and a swim team that allows the Bishop Canevin students to join. This is a regular occurrence in the scholastic sports landscape among some smaller schools. It is not ideal, but it happens.

USO Football T-shirt
USO Football t-shirt

The USO football team in Pittsburgh Public Schools includes students from U-Prep, Sci-Tech and Obama. A similar deal can happen with golf and water polo too, if creative thinking can prevail.

David, Sead, Mark, Noah, Zack, E.
David, Sead, Mark, Noah, Zack, E.
Zack O as employee
Zack O, departed Sci-Tech after 9th and 10th grade to attend Allderdice. Zack worked as a lifeguard for Swim & Water Polo Camp in the summer of 2015.
    Obama’s water polo team could be extended to support students from:

  • Allderdice,
  • Westinghouse,
  • U-Prep,
  • Oliver,
  • CAPA,
  • Sci-Tech,
  • Winchester Thurston,
  • Ellis,
  • Seton LaSalle,
  • and perhaps a few other smaller schools within and next to the city’s borders.

Pittsburgh Combined

When we went to Ohio on past occasions, we called ourselves, Pittsburgh Combined.

Then we’ve got a best of all world’s situation, more kids with better opportunities.

img_1877

Thanks for the governmental oversight.

Thanks for listening and the consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon. My cell: 412-298-3432.

Goal, or no goal?
Goal, or no goal?

Hear Mark’s 3-minute presentation to the PPS Board:

Associated Handouts

Printed materials provided at the public hearing on October 17, 2016.

History

Looking for kids to come out for some Swim & Water Polo fun on Tuesdays and Fridays

Pittsburgh Invite!

Join new Swim & Water Polo practices.

From: Mark Rauterkus, Swim & Water Polo Coach
Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation & Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Summer Dreamers Academy
Obama Academy, Sci-Tech and U-Prep Varsity Swim Team

To: Students at PPS, Teachers, Parents, Guardians and any possible summer-time employees wishing for jobs as a lifeguard and/or swim instructor

Let’s go to the swim pool for a new, city-wide water polo program.

Learning to swim and then getting a job in the summers as a lifeguard and swim instructor is a big deal and something to celebrate! We are calling for all swimmers and non-swimmers to consider joining us for practices for a new activity. Learn to swim or swim better, stay in shape, grow stronger. You’re encourage to consider these opportunities to make continued progress, new friends and learn new skills in the weeks and months to come with me in some BRAND NEW AQUATIC PROGRAMS just being announced.

All the city’s middle school and high-school students, boys and girls, are invited to Swim & Water Polo practices. We will swim, work a bit on fitness, strokes, and then play and introduce everyone to water games such as water polo and SKWIM. Rookies are welcome. Bring your friends.

Tuesdays from 6 to 7:30 pm at PPS Obama Academy.

Corner of East Liberty Blvd and Highland Ave, in East Liberty / Highland Park

Fridays from 5:30 to 7:00 pm – Thelma Lovette YMCA.

2114 Centre Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 – YMCA phone = 412-315-0990

First practices on February 2, 2016. An adult needs to sign in the student on the first first practice with the coach and with the YMCA on your first visit there. No charge to join. Bring your suit, goggles if you have them, towel and enthusiasm.

We are also looking for students to sign up for Summer Dreamers in Swim & Water Polo for 2016. Plus, we like to engage junior captains and junior lifeguards for service jobs in the summer with these activities with the BGC.

Mark Rauterkus, 412-298-3432 = cell

Mark@Bloomfield-Garfield.org Mrauterkus@PghBoe.Net Mark@Rauterkus.com

Feel free to forward elsewhere.

Co-op Team Forming: Pittsburgh Combined

Sports is about competition, but with a new project from BGC seasonal employee, Mark Rauterkus, cooperation is the prime goal. Students from a number of different schools are being recruited to work together to form a new varsity water polo program at Obama Academy. The key to playing well with others rests with adults at the respective schools, the principals and athletic directors.

An email invitation to more than ten different schools was sent in June 2015, in hopes of forming a sports team coop, a PIAA sports term, that allows students from various schools to play under the same team banner in high school competitions. Coach Rauterkus and others at Pittsburgh’s Obama Academy are familiar with squads that include students from different schools. The school’s football team, called USO, has U-Prep, Sci-Tech and Obama. All the Obama varsity teams, such as swimming, basketball and volleyball, can include the students from U-Prep and Sci-Tech.

Coach Rauterkus is the boys varsity swim coach at Obama Academy. His team won a WPIAL section title, going undefeated in its first year in the WPIAL in 2013. Home-school and CAPA students are on the Obama swim team too.

“We’re pulling together an new program that forms a bigger pool of eligible athletes,” said Rauterkus. Catholic schools, (Central, Okland, Bishop Canevin, Seton LaSalle), private schools (Ellis, Winchester Thurston), charter schools (Urban Pathways, City High) and other smaller public schools (Westinghouse, Brentwood, Wilkinsburg) are invited and are considering the co-op.

“Playing well with others is a theme that resonates with me,” said Rauterkus. “The opportunities for the city kids are often much different than what are presented in suburban settings. “With water polo, we can grow the sport and create friendships and better understandings among different groups of people.”

Presently only North Allegheny and two other schools in Erie field boys water polo teams. Pittsburgh Combined, a team hosted by Pittsburgh’s Obama Academy, could be the fourth.

Underwater player
Invites to join were sent to: Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy, Pittsburgh Milliones 6-12, Pittsburgh Westinghouse High School, Central Catholic, Oakland Catholic, Bishop Canevin High School, Seton-La Salle, Ellis School, Winchester Thurston, City High School, Urban Pathways, Propel Charter Schools, Hill House Charter School, Imani Christian Academy, Wilkinsburg High School, Brentwood High School, Carlynton High School, Northgate High School.

For the past six summers, water polo has been offered as an activity with Summer Dreamers Academy. In 2015, more than 150 students get to learn to swim and play water polo for 3-hours a day for 28 days. Staff from many of those schools help train the students as employees, including more than a dozen from the city’s Learn & Earn job program.

The open letter to school administrators says, in part: “In past years, we’ve had more informal participation and called the team, Pittsburgh Combined. This year, with your okay, we’d love to include students from your school in a more robust program with more jobs and tighter relationships among the educational institutions so that the city kids can compete.”

Water polo seems to be about both: competition and cooperation.

See the letter and more at the Pittsburgh Combined wiki page.