Private vs. Public

Morris Gates-Mouton (12) pulls away from a lancer defender on his way to the endzone.

Morris Gates-Mouton (’12) pulls away from a lancer defender on his way to the endzone.

Jonny Glazier, Staff Writer

Public Schooled: a mantra that has resonated throughout the Paly athletic community for years. However when one ventures outside of the “Palo Alto bubble,” this statement falls flat, listless and generally void of truth.

 Last year, Paly capped off its most storied year athletically. With four CCS Championships and two State Championships, Palo Alto’s shelves were getting filled with hardware, and its streets packed with a plethora of parades. However, the Vikings’ unprecedented success came to the astonishment of many, mainly due to the fact that Palo Alto High School is a public school.The Vikings stormed through three consecutive WCAL private schools en route to the California D1 State Championship, highlighted by the Vikings 35-0 routing of the Bellarmine Bells.
When the Vikings reached the State Championship against the Centennial Huskies, a charter school from Corona, Calif., no one gave the small public school under the shadow of Stanford any shot at winning. Centennial’s offense was as unstoppable as the 2011 Green Bay Packers as they consistently ran up the score against the stoutest of defenses and embarrassed storied Southern California private schools.
However, the Vikings’ defense proved to be an immovable object as they held the Huskies, led by Arizona State Recruit Michael Eubank, to a mere 13 points in their nerve-racking 15-13 Victory.At the time, newspapers across the Bay Area touted the Vikings’ victory as one of the most improbable upsets ever.
When one looks in retrospect, the Vikings’ road to the title was just as unbelievable as the papers said. They had consistently routed private schools on their warpath to the title, despite their position as underdogs in all of their postseason games.

However that raises the question, why did everyone expect the private schools to inherently trounce the Vikings?

The Vikings had a plethora of players who were scheduled to play D1 football at very competitive schools, such as Stanford, UCLA, and Fresno State. The Vikings proved that a public school could hang with the big boys and despite this, many still expected the private schools to win due to the fact that they were, well, private schools. They could recruit, they had more money, and they could bring in the best athletes through scholarships, thus many thought that the Vikings didn’t stand a chance when they came into the postseason against the WCAL. Yet, the bantam bunch bashed the WCAL and many opinions in Palo Alto and the Bay Area were changed over the true difference between public schools and private schools.

Rankings and hype aside, both private and public schools offer unique and varying experiences to student athletes.

Perhaps the most important differentiating factor between private and public schools is the tuition. For those unfamiliar with private schools, one must pay tuition every year to attend a private school. With tuition as high as $40,000 for some elite private schools, private schools find themselves at an innate advantage financially over public schools.

While at public schools athletics and art are the first things to go when the budget is tight, private schools seldom have any budget issues at all. This surplus of revenue results in a massive portion of a schools yearly income going to athletics.

The extra funds available to these schools allows them to have better paid coaches, larger stadiums, top-of-the-line equipment, more expensive weight rooms and better uniforms. On top of the fact that they have a deluge of extra dough, private schools can also recruit players from out of their area giving them athletic scholarships to come play at their respective schools.

While this may seem like an overwhelming advantage for private schools, many think that the true differences lie in other areas. As assistant lacrosse head coach at Bellarmine, program director of Team NorCal, and executive director of Tomahawks Lacrosse,  Matt Skiba has had extensive experience with athletes from both public and private Schools.

“The one interesting factor is the difference in maturity level,” Skiba said.  “The kids I’ve encountered from private schools in San Francisco alone seem to be more mature.”

Players and coaches alike harp on the same issues. Being a varsity Lacrosse player at Bellarmine and midfielder for Team NorCal, Henry Armistead (‘14) has had similar experience with players and coaches from public and private schools.

“The biggest advantage is having a very disciplined approach to everything we do,” Armistead said.

The Bells displayed their true discipline as their maturity and determination permeated into every facet of their play as they overwhelmed the Vikings in the 2011 CCS Open Division Championship. The Bells worked the tired Vikings defense, formerly known as “The Swarm”, up and down the field as they ran up the score, eventually winning by an impressive score of 41-13, putting to rest the Vikes hopes of defending their Open Title.

Earl Hansen, Athletic Director and head coach of the Vikings Football Team, perpetuates similar themes in  the success of Paly’s  Athletics.

 “Palo Alto is a pretty unique place,” Hansen said. “We have a lot of athletes who are very dedicated to their sports and staying in shape.”
Hansen’s rock hard coaching philosophy results in a disciplined, hardworking team,which sticks the basics. Earl’s strict pro-style offense and stout defense has led the Vikings to a 24-3 record over the past two seasons.
However disregarding finances as superfluous to a program’s success is as preposterous as Congress declaring pizza a vegetable.Even though he previously testified that the true differentiating factors lie on the field rather than in the bank, Skiba does acknowledge the importance of extra funding.
“That (extra funding) is an advantage,” Skiba said. “What it comes down to unfortunately is since apparel and uniforms are such a big deal to players, private schools offer better uniforms and gear that is a big draw for some athletes.”
Athletes from Paly show serious fervor on the hot topic of money. Mathias Schmutz (‘13) was part of Boys’ Varsity Basketball as they fell to Archbishop Mitty, a private school,  in the CCS Open Championship.
“Players from all over the Bay Area go to private schools,” Schmutz said. “They think they are great because they have all this money.”
Schmutz’s father, Tom, attended St. Francis but now coaches JV Basketball at Paly.
A common stereotype about private schools in general, is that they put all of their money into their athletics. This cliche stereotype is an unfair categorization of all Private Schools. Though schools like Bellarmine and Archbishop Mitty do put an emphasis on athletics, schools like Pinewood have a much smaller community, with significantly weaker athletic teams.Scotty Peery (‘13), transfered to Paly from Pinewood as a Sophomore. Pinewood, a small private school located in Los Altos, offers a unique athletic experience, far different from the one offered at Paly.
“In a private school where there is only 180 kids, it makes it a lot easier to play a sport ,” Peery said.

With the emphasis not on winning, but rather on participation, Athletics at Pinewood are based around enjoyment and fun. “There is more room to play what you like,” Peery said.

With tuition at over $25,000, one may think that Pinewood could invest serious money into Athletics; however with such a small student body, at little over 180 students, the vast majority of funds to the classroom rather than the football field. Thus the brash assumption that all private schools rake in mounds of money is simply false.

While we may like to credit the success of Private Schools to their money rather than their coaching and play, the reason for their success is truly a gray area.

“When it comes to athletic ability, I can’t see much of a difference,” Skiba said.Although money does factor into the equation, disciplined coaching and performance on the field makes schools like Bellarmine as good as they are.

On the other hand, schools like Pinewood simply don’t have the money to pour into Athletics and thus have a much weaker team than Paly. Since Paly is a financially privileged town with an elite coaching staff and determined players, Paly remains a perennial powerhouse in CCS.

What it truly comes down to isn’t a presumptuous classification of all Private Schools or all Public Schools being either phenomenal or mediocre athletically, but rather a look at each individual school because they all offer unique opportunities on and off the field.

“While you may like to classify all Private Schools as athletic power houses, the truth is each school offers something unique,” Peery said.

Whether it be Public or Private, cost $40,000 or $4,000, one can’t simply label a school as an athletic powerhouse unless they want to make a presumption as brash and foolish as  thinking a Kardashian marriage will last longer than several months.