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The End of High School Sports

My summer is ending. No, I do not attend a private school that starts three weeks before everyone else. I'm a high school athlete.

I've been kicking a muddy soccer ball around fields for 12 years now, and last summer, I jumped at the chance to play another sport. I went out for the new field hockey team at Novi High School, in suburban Detroit.

For $175, the fee we paid last year, it seemed like a great opportunity to stay in shape and become part of a close-knit family. But the new fee, $350, which takes effect this fall, makes it a completely different story. We knew the economy was bad and schools needed to cut, but this hike and eliminating athletic transportation aren't ideal.

The 2009-2010 school year charged an athlete $175 per sport with a two-sport cap. This year, every athlete is charged a onetime fee of $350, even if they play only one sport. And, buses no longer run to away events.

I never thought that the pay-to-play fee would be as high as this. For $500 I play club soccer, which is a more competitive league that includes travel to out-of-state tournaments. I always thought club soccer was a more elite program focused on training and that high school was more about friendships with classmates and representing your school. But, at these fees, I worry that athletes won't come to tryouts, and I just speak on behalf of the soccer and field hockey teams.

I sat down with Curt Ellis, athletic director of Novi High School, to discuss the changes for this school year. He worries about the turnouts at tryouts, too, but for the larger teams. Sports like football, which carry large rosters and do not guarantee every athlete playing time, could see a drop in numbers this fall. Ellis said he worries that athletes won't want to pay more to be on the team if they're not playing.

I think some students already weed themselves out before tryouts because they doubt their chances of making the team. Now, money will also be a factor and it could mean fewer athletes.

The loss of transportation to athletic events is piling on. Even with the $350 fee, students must drive themselves to away events, unless they are on a large roster like cross country, track and field or football. A team could ask for a bus, but that would mean another fee.

This will be my senior year, but I worry about students in lower grades. With varsity and junior varsity, there are some students who can drive. The parents of freshmen would have to get off work early to haul them around to games that could be an hour away. Though my parents, who have full-time jobs, somehow managed to take me to all the away games last year since field hockey isn't funded by the school, I can't say all athletes will be as lucky.

I hope I am wrong -- and that this important part of high school survives.

Naomi Kiura is part of the "TIME 11," a group of Detroit area high-school students working with Assignment Detroit. She is a senior at Novi High School.

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