Naperville Unit District 203 officials this week found that elevating a school activity to become a state-sanctioned sport is not an easy process.
"A lot of things go into it, rather than just saying yes or no," said Superintendent of Schools Dan Bridges. "It's a number of financial and logistical considerations."
Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Bob Ross told the school board Monday evening that cost factors and the use of facilities must be carefully planned.
The discussion came on the heels of a request from girls lacrosse clubs at both Naperville Central and North high schools to become official school sports.
Last August, the Illinois High School Association decreed it would sponsor a statewide lacrosse tournament if school districts would certify 65 boys teams and 40 girls teams as sports.
"On Dec. 15, our board will be reviewing the numbers on this and come to a timeline that we hope will work for all school districts," said Matt Troha, IHSA assistant executive director. "We've found that lacrosse is a sport that's exploding in popularity in Illinois."
Naperville school officials said it was too early to predict the costs of items like equipment, officials, travel and coaching, as well as logistical issues with scheduling and the use of facilities.
Ross outlined a nine-step plan that would require the activity to first be in place for at least two years, to continue with conversations between athletic directors and principals, and finally to be worked into the budget for school board approval.
"Space, cost, staffing and the benefits of the proposed sport all must be considered," Ross told board members. "We'd ask for principals from the school to agree by Jan. 1, and by Feb. 1 make a proposal. Just as we do with any program, we consider the cost and work that into the budget."
Board member Suzyn Price asked whether the process would require the proposed sport be an activity already in place at both high schools.
"I guess it's 'never say never,' but I would have trouble imagining putting a sport in at one school and not the other," Ross answered.
The school board also discussed gender equity in sports.
"Title IX requires that we have equitable offerings, not necessarily the same sports," said Ross. "We have the same number of girls sports as we do boys sports, but they're not each the same sport."
Board member Susan Crotty asked: "How would you get something new approved when people already are using an athletic field and they want to, literally, protect their turf? Both swimming pools already are used from six in the morning until nine at night, every day, year round."
"It's a pickle," Ross said. "There are limited resources and limited space. The question is, how does this school district weigh competing interests and make a decision that's in the best interests of students?"
Price recalled a Naperville North student who received a lacrosse scholarship from North Central College, who now has a job as a college lacrosse coach in Iowa.
"That's what we want to see our kids do when they have these opportunities," Price said. "It's enormously beneficial to kids' learning and can give them motivation to keep their grades up. It's not about being the best, but about them doing their best."
The school board will vote on the formalized process for sanctioning new school sports at its next meeting.
If approved, lacrosse costs could be figured into the next school budget and become an official sport effective spring 2015.