CEDAR RAPIDS — While capturing Cedar Rapids Xavier’s run in the state tournament through my camera, I noticed something that undoubtedly has been happening for many years, but did not irritate me until I was up close to the action.
The topic of “catholic recruiting” seems to be all the media wants to talk about after covering the games, both in basketball and football. But the question I have is, where did the love for the game go? When did it go from cheering on our school’s athletes to finding excuses as to why another team didn’t win?
After taking pictures of Xavier’s 60-50 win over Waverly-Shell Rock in the boys’ state basketball tournament, I stayed to watch some of the other games. While watching the Class 1A championship game, a mother from one of the schools was sitting behind me and was very vocal the entire game, which normally I’m OK with. Cheer on your school as loud as you want, as long as it’s positive. After the other school won the 1A championship, she started saying some negative things, mostly trying to come up with excuses as to why her team didn’t win.
“You know, Catholic and Christian schools should have their own class, because it’s unfair to our boys to have to play against them. All they do is recruit,” she said.
I didn’t say anything, but I was mad. The moms around me agreed with her, and I was ready to talk back. They hadn’t seen my Xavier shirt, but I was ready to stand up and say “yeah we do recruit, it’s called baptism, and have you ever thought about how the other team was just better?”
Instead, I held my tongue because it wasn’t worth it. Parochial and Christian schools are bashed left and right when it comes to the topic of recruiting.
The main point coming from public schools and the media is Catholic schools give money to athletes to come to their school. Parochial schools get limited support from the government in the form of money for textbooks and transportation and the funding parochial schools receive is only through donors, parish subsidies and tuition payments. Yet they never ask or bash public schools over the topic of recruiting. Instead, the media have to find a reason to blame parochial schools.
The classic stereotype of “only rich kids go to Xavier” is another reason why public schools think Xavier recruits, but this point is simply untrue. By Iowa law, families can only receive help with tuition from the school based on their financial needs. Five percent of students at Xavier qualify for free or reduced lunches, and 25 percent get tuition assistance based upon their financial need. They don’t get money for being the best baseball player or the best singer, they only get it if they’re in financial need.
The idea of Xavier recruiting can be disproved when you look at the football team. All of the starters on the offense and defense this season attended catholic schools since kindergarten. While many students from Xavier have been in the catholic school system since day one, 12 percent of the eighth-graders from all three middle schools go to public schools as freshmen. Xavier only averages two to three students per year in the freshman class that have not gone to catholic schools before.
When you look at public schools from across the country, they have multimillion dollar facilities, but haven’t always performed well when it comes to earning state titles in sports. Then you look at Xavier, which has won a state title every year since 2013 even though we may not have the top facilities. When people wonder why we keep winning, they need to realize sometimes — or always — hard work and dedication can go a long way.
With open enrollment, students have a wide range of options when it comes to picking a school. If you had the option to go to a school where they have success in your sport, wouldn’t you go there? What the students, parents and media need to realize is just because we have a dress code and charge tuition doesn’t mean we have the advantage in sports.
The reason we went 13-0 and won the state football title is because of passion and hard work. The reason the boys’ basketball team went to Wells Fargo Arena the past four years and walked away with two third-place finishes and two championships is because of their love for the game.
What everyone needs to remember is why we watch and/or play sports. It's for the love of the game — win or lose.
So when I see parents yell at the referees, I wonder where their love of the game went. I wonder why instead of realizing you can’t win everything, athletes decide they have to rant on Twitter about how unfair it is they had to play a parochial school. I hope everyone can realize it is just a game, and we should treat it as such.
You will have your highs and you will have your lows, but if you can rise and push yourself, you’ll win in the end.