With local high schools back in session and the sports calendar ready to get under way, students will soon turn their attention to what happens at the end of the school day.
Hillsborough County Athletic Director Lanness Robinson, who graduated from Florida State University and earned a master's degree from Saint Leo University, is nearing his fifth anniversary in the position.
Times correspondent Brandon Wright spoke with Robinson, 39, about budgets, obstacles and the importance of extracurricular activities to students.
If you could, give the readers an overview of where athletics are right now in the county.
I think we've done a good job maintaining a level of excellence in our student-athletes, and their performance, really, speaks for itself. The number of student-athletes participating in sports has continued to grow, and the success they've had on the field and in the classroom has been outstanding.
How does the current climate compare with years past?
There are always good and bad sides to things, but we've added more schools over the past few years and continued to provide for all our athletes and put them in the best position possible. I think that is a positive. You're always going to have some problems along the way, but we try to address concerns and handle them accordingly.
How does the budgeting process work and when is it set for you?
Our fiscal year starts July 1 and ends June 30. So on July 1, we get our budget from the school district. That process all starts in the state Legislature in Tallahassee, and then it is moved on to the local level. Then decisions are made how to appropriate those funds. Things are always on the table and open for discussion. But once the budget is set, it's for the whole year. So no, a sport won't be cut during the year.
In these stingy economic times, it seems like sports are always one of the first things mentioned as a possible cut. Why is that?
It seems like the people who want to cut athletics see it as unnecessary because it doesn't go on inside the classroom.
I think my answer to them would be twofold. The first part of that is, I believe athletics provides invaluable life lessons in and out of the classroom, as do all extracurricular activities. It teaches you time management, how to work in a team setting and problem solving. These are all things you need in the classroom and in life.
Secondly, I would also say to just do the research. It is a fact that kids involved with sports and outside activities are more successful than if they didn't participate.
It's been a while since a sport has been added in Hillsborough County (flag football was offered in 2005). When are we likely to see another program introduced (i.e. weight lifting, lacrosse)?
There's a number of things that go into consideration like interest level and, of course, budget concerns. Plus you also have gender equality as an issue, the ratio of male to female athletes. But honestly, in the tight economic conditions that we are in, I don't see it happening any time soon.
With so many schools in this county, what is the biggest hurdle you face?
I would say parent concerns. Their children are their greatest commodity, so obviously anything to do with them becomes very personal.