hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

September 20, 2012

More playing for Hillies as sports fees drop again

By Alex Lippa

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averhill High School saw over 400 students participate in sports at Haverhill High School this fall as sports users fees were decreased for the second consecutive year. Last year, 390 students that played sports last fall.

“The numbers are what we expected,” said Haverhill High athletic director Tom O’Brien. “It’s only a slight jump because this is our largest season, which already has the most students participating in it. I think we may see a bigger jump in the winter and spring sports compared to last year.”

The fee is $100 per sport this year, down from $125 last fall. When O’Brien became athletic director in the middle of the 2010-2011 school year, athletic fees were at $275 per season.

O’Brien said some generous donations played a significant role in the reduction of sports fees. Jaffarian Motors has donated $50 every time a Haverhill resident has bought or leased a vehicle, yielding $13,000. In addition, the school received two separate anonymous donations totaling $45,000.

The individuals who are benefitting the most from the cuts may be the families who have multiple multi-sport athletes. In previous years, there was an $850 family maximum while this year the family maximum is down to $600.

Maureen Zuber has three kids who have played sports at Haverhill High School. When her oldest, Zachary, was the only one in the family playing sports two years ago, it cost only $50 less for him to play two sports, than it will for two of her younger children, Stephanie and Nicholas, to play three sports this year.

“It’s great that this has been able to happen,” said Zuber. “It benefits both the schools and the students for kids to be fully engaged in academics and athletics.”

Zuber said her family has made athletics a budgeting priority, but significant user fees would have caused sacrifices in other areas.

Ideally, she’d like to see the fees eliminated.

“I realize that most schools do charge to play sports,” said Zuber. “If there is a possibility for there to be no user fees that would be better but I understand that the school is budgeting and that it may not be feasible.”

O’Brien said the sport that has seen the most significant rise has been girls swimming, which had 37 students try out after only 27 students swam last year. O’Brien credits the popularity of the Summer Olympics, which he believes often causes more students to try out for swimming.

Football, which has the most participants in any sport, has 95 students in the program this year, down from 102 a season ago.

Head coach Tim O’Connor said that was primarily due to losing 27 seniors to graduation.

While the smaller fees certainly make it more enticing for students to try out for sports, a new winning culture around Haverhill sports certainly doesn’t hurt.

The Hillie sports teams combined for 164 wins in 2011-2012, after just 129 wins the previous season.

“When i first got here, students talked about a lack of school spirit,” said O’Brien. “Students are who go to the games see the great atmosphere that comes with winning, and I think they want to be a part of that.