Saturday, January 30, 2010

OUSD, City Conspire to Keep Kids Obese

My apologies for the misleading headline but I am still stewing about the situation for finding practice and game fields for our high school rugby club. We search for a fair way for the City and the School District to allow better access to fields for youth sports.

There is no conspiracy but obstacles abound. On February 18 I will be attending a City Parks and Rec meeting about the future of field use.

Background info for our club team, which provides rugby to under-served and poor kids throughout Oakland. About 80-percent of our team is dirt poor and lives in the Hood. Many do not have access to traditional school sports like many of us had growing up. Every year we deal with the City and the Oakland Schools trying to get game and practice fields in winter. The City does not allow grass field use during the rainy season because it tends to thrash the fields.

So the City has told us that the policy is that we can't make reservations more than a month in advance. The issue with that is that we have to lineup referees and confirm game days with other teams, only 30 days does not allow much advance planning. Our season is February through April.

What really ticked me off is that one of our coaches finally got an audience with Castlemont High about getting on their turf field for a game. (For the record, Oakland High never responds to our annual requests for a field.) Guess how much Castelmont wants? $250 for a few hours on a Saturday. Why? Because the OUSD custodians' union has a minimum fee of 3 hours at $40 per-hour and apparently OUSD wants to profit on the rest.

I am a City resident who pays hefty property taxes like the other coaches who volunteer time for free. Oakland: Do you not get that we want to engage youth in productive outlets??? My nickname for Oakland when it comes to youth sports is "The City of No."

I learned a while ago that it's a good idea not to bitch if you don't have proposed solutions. So here are some ideas for the City dealing with how it assigns field use:

  1. Give priority to youth sports. (Adults have more options for recreation.)
  2. Give priority to youth sports in the "heart" of their league seasons. A season should be defined as 3 months. Teams need time to sign up for fields far more in advance of 30 days in order to schedule matches and line up referees.
  3. There should be a public record or a published calender online of which group has which field when. (Don't let us wonder if a certain group has a field because of "connections" or something unsavory.)
  4. If there are competing youth sports trying to get on the same field, alternate the usage. Don't just give field space every year to the most popular youth activity.
  5. Look into building more all-weather fields. In the long run they are cheaper than maintaining grass.
To Oakland Unified and especially to the Custodians I say this: Stop being so protective of your literal turf.

Are we not all in this process together of allowing kids more opportunities. Why shouldn't a kid in Oakland have as much opportunity as a kid in Moraga or Orinda?


  1. This is rediculous - they want to profit off of field use? Profit off of developing sports clubs that serve to underpriveledged oakland youth? I can understand the competition for use of the field but since when is money an issue? Shame on OUSD

  2. I don't know the exact breakdown on costs. I can sort of understand the custodian aspect because they have to open and close the place. We also have a $1 million liability insurance certificate through USA Rugby.

  3. Welcome to Oakland. I have been dealing with field issues involving youth soccer and baseball for years. This situation is all to common.

    Your proposals are good - in fact, these are some of the same ideas that we have kicked around before.

    I drive by the Oakland High Field many a weekend day, only to see it just sitting there.

    By the way, if you think Oakland Parks and Rec and OUSD is tough to deal with, try Peralta.

    I too will be at the meeting on the 18th. I will look to intorduce myself.

    One thing that I think would work would be to pool together the different leagues. If we work together, rather than always competing on field issues, I think there is much that can get done.

  4. Thanks, Andy. I/we need to follow-up with school board member Chris Dobbins. He seems sympathetic to trying to open up OUSD facilities. Reform is slow isn't it? Above all, I want to see stated policies and a bit more transparency in the process.