Pay to Win?

Friday night lights, roaring crowds and the potential to be named state champion is a dream come true for high school athletes, but not all athletes are afforded the same opportunities. 

By collecting data from Oregon State Athletics Association on which high schools had won state titles within the past 10 years, The Obsidian shined a light on the wide disparity of championship wins between high poverty and low poverty schools. Schools that have a higher percentage of kids that qualify for free and reduced meals win one-third as many state titles as the wealthier schools. 

Students from high poverty and low poverty schools weighed in with their thoughts on why there’s such a big difference. 

Grace Schmidt, a sophomore soccer player at Summit High School says, “we have definitely been given an advantage. We can afford new coaches, we get new balls and new gear. Summit has always been favored, and we can get more practice time and better coaching due to the money that we have and our school has.”

Summit has a 11% poverty rate. They’ve won 64 state titles in the last 10 years. On the other hand, schools such as Redmond High School, where 33% of students qualify for free or reduced meals, have won two state titles in the past 10 years. 

Reese Wedding, an athlete from Redmond High School, said, “I think if I went to a different school with more money there would be more opportunities such as more privately funded programs and clubs that I couldn’t get at my school.” 

Win and loss records are clearly tied to income levels. Sports authorities say the difference is often that students at wealthier schools typically can afford to join sports clubs and receive more private sports training. 

Some independent sports clubs offer scholarships, but not all of them. 

“We do our best to provide our community with financial aid so everyone can play the sport they love,” says Tara Bilanski, head of Apex FC soccer club.

According to OSAA, no assistance is available for clubs and private training. However there is outside support from donations. Within high schools, there are financial assistance programs for student athletes to compete and get the necessary gear. 

Dave Williams, Caldera High School athletic director, said all Bend-La Pine high schools work in conjunction with the education foundation to provide scholarships for sports participation fees, so low-income students can play, too. 

“We do not want that to be a barrier holding someone back,” Williams said.

If a student needs better gear for a sport, there is some assistance available. 

“It helps drastically to have new gear,” Williams said. “For individuals who need assistance, we typically refer athletes to our Family Access Network advocates (F.A.N.) at their school, can apply for donated equipment and clothing offered to schools through the Oregon Schools Activities Association foundation, and coaches in many of our programs find a way to get their athletes what they need through donations, purchasing and fundraising.”

Peter Webber, the executive director form Oregon State Athletics Association said “We provide support through the OSAA Foundation to schools with students in need of equipment and apparel via donations, most schools have programs in place to waive participation fees for students in need as well.”


  • Sienna McCarl

    I’m a junior at Bend's newest school, Caldera High School. I’m passionate about writing and the opportunity I have to work here. My favorite lyrical genius is Taylor Swift, specifically anything she writes that I can scream and sing in the car 🙂

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