Some people believe that private schools have an unjust advantage over public schools when they compete against each other.

As the 2016-17 winter season came to a close March 25, we Ohio high school sports fans learned this: It was a darn good winter for the parochial schools.

Lakewood St. Edward ruled the mats, Cleveland St. Ignatius dominated the ice, Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame was the queen of the basketball court and the Cincinnati St. Xavier boys flexed their muscles in the water.

We've heard about such lack of public school titles in the past, haven't we?

We'll probably hear this again in June after the spring season concludes, in December once the fall season ends and most likely in 2018, 2019 and on and on and on.

I've been in this profession for 19 years, including the last 17 in Northeast Ohio.

And yes, I quickly learned that nothing gets people more fired up than the never-ending public school vs. private school debate.

Look, I'll share something personal with you. I'm a "dreaded" parochial school grad.

I graduated from Steubenville Catholic Central in 1993 and am sure proud that not only I avoided getting kicked out (for various reasons), but I'm also quite delighted that I got my diploma.

I played soccer all four years during my high school days. We reached district play my final two years and the many days I laced up the cleats for the Crusaders were certainly some of the greatest thrills of my life.

Did I hear snarky remarks from outsiders regarding where I went to school? Not really. However, at the same time, I will admit I may have been naive of the public/private school dilemma.

Certainly not now.

So that brings us to the $64,000 question: Do the parochial schools have an advantage over the public schools? Yes.

In my humble opinion, there is no doubt the private schools have major advantages over the public schools when it comes to competition.

Obviously, the parochial schools include teenagers from not only several cities, but also several counties.

I know some of those private schools recruit certain athletes to play for their respective schools' teams and to quote Vito Corleone from the original Godfather movie, have made offers he or she "can't refuse."

To the public schools, this is my message: I feel for you. It's an unfair system that puts your kids at a disadvantage. I've seen very, very talented public school teams get completely overmatched by parochial school squads on the regional and state levels.

When you get that far, lopsided defeats like that shouldn't happen, should they?

I also will state that David has cast his fair share of stones towardthe forehead of mighty Goliath. Public school squads have defeated the practically invincible parochial school juggernauts on a number of occasions.

Does that happen often? No. Does that mean as long as private schools lurk in the Buckeye state, public schools should fold their tents and not even get into the fight? Again, the answer is no.

Regardless of whether you agree with me or not, just keep a few things in mind.

Since the Ohio High School Athletic Association, along with other state high school sports associations throughout the country, have allowed, and will continue to allow, these so-called "unfair" competitions to take place, blame it on the system.

If you want to write letters to voice your rancor of this current system to the OHSAA, you're welcome to, of course. But remember to keep your criticism away from the private schools themselves, their fans, coaches and most of all, athletes.

They're not gypsies or front-runners or I actually heard a former coach tell me this a long time ago ... traitors. It bothers me that some of the anger toward the current athletic system is being inappropriately directed toward the athletes and schools themselves.

Remember, they're people just like you.

I can tell you my parents weren't the least bit interested in how many games my team won. They sent me to a parochial school to get a Catholic education and quite simply, they felt it was best for me.

Maybe some of you don't want to read this, but I'm forever grateful. This is America, people. We live in a democracy that can be defined by a phrase that I'm sure just about everyone knows: "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Sometimes, those things are found at public schools and sometimes, those same things can be accomplished at private schools. Either way, it's our choice.

If an athlete played for teams in their respective communities during their childhood and then decided to jump ship and compete for a private school team after finishing junior high, guess what? They have every right to do that.

They are simply exercising their rights as Americans to do what they feel is best. Such privileges should never, ever be taken away.

When it comes to the public school vs. private school discussion, let the debating continue. And while doing so, I hope people consider something a gentleman by the name of Martin Luther King Jr. once said: "Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."


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