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Before Manteca schools plant the Acorn seed . . .
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It looks as if the Manteca Unified School District board is about to plant a $250,000 acorn.
But before they do a head-long rush into bringing back the Acorn League of another era to replace the Manteca Unified Student Trust after school sports program that is teetering on financial collapse, the board needs to take a good, long look at its objectives and the motives of some behind the move.
They need to give consideration to changing times such like they did when they implemented Going Digital and the undertaking. In short, the concept of an Acorn League of their youth may be the wrong thing for today’s youth.
Let’s disperse with two pointed observations first.
The board would do well to remember back into the dark days of the Acorn League’s initial demise. As the district struggling to keep the sports program in place, they tried to reduce costs by cutting stipends and using non-teachers.
This sparked a backlash among some teachers. They immediately contended no one but them— including colleges students enrolled in teaching programs — were capable of properly coaching the youth sports teams. Ultimately the real reason behind their objections surfaced — padding their retirements. The stipends the district paid counted toward their retirement checks. This, of course, was a long-term hidden cost of the Acorn League that was never accurately reflected in the cost of the program but was ultimately absorbed by taxpayers.
And then there is the real objective. If the goal as stated by one teacher should be viewing the Acorn League as a pre-training program for high school sports, then the board should ask some serious questions. Is it really needed given the success of almost every Manteca Unified sports program on the prep level that MUST and Acorn mimicked? If that is the real objective then shouldn’t the high school coaches and athletic directors by asked to devise a blueprint for the Acorn League’s revival?
Perhaps what is needed is a real overhaul of the entire Acorn concept to reflect the realities of 2015.
Would “competitive” style leagues work best or an expanded intramural programs to involve as many students as possible?
If the objective is to foster more physical activity, teamwork and interpersonal skills then keeping alive MUST and Acorn makes sense. But what about other objectives that an after school program that involves getting kids to move and work toward goals such as weight loss, better health, and life-long fitness skills? Rolling out a rehash of the Acorn League would be like Apple meeting today’s telecommunications needs by bringing back the princess phone.
What about exploring the possibility of offering twice a week classes in various life fitness endeavors such as dance, aerobics (running the gamut from Zumba to U-Jam), fitness training classes that combine exercise with adjusting eating habits, or weight training? Instead of a track program per se why not running clubs at each school that are in place from August to May?
Why not revolutionize how schools conduct after school “sports/recreation” programs much like the district has done in the classroom with Going Digital.  Physical education should be treated just like mental education.
Manteca Unified has gotten the connection between good nutrition and better classroom performance. Why not take the next logical step and elevate physical well-being as a priority for students?
The trends are well documented. Youth are overweight. Youth don’t have great nutrition habits. Youth don’t exercise enough. Youth are developing more health issues tied to being overweight and inactive.
And there is more than 50 years of research that shows that physical activity that exercises the body helps sharpen the mind in the classroom and elsewhere.
Manteca has an abundance of sports programs available to those youth that want to play organized soccer, football, basketball, softball, and baseball.
The philosophy behind and Going Digital is based on the fact that not all students by far are heading to a four-year college. They need skills that will help them thrive in life.
The Acorn League — if it is revived as a competitive program — will only serve those that are coordinated, athletic, or driven enough to get a shot at playing high school sports that might open the door to play on a college team and once in a blue moon might give a Manteca Unified graduate a chance at playing pro sports even if it is just in the minor leagues.
Of course, high school sports don’t exist to turn out pro athletes. There’s much more to it than that.
But to squander an opportunity to encourage as many students as possible to get hooked on physical activities that are life-long endeavors that sharpen physical and mental well-being just so you can operate a feeder program for high school sports programs is about as cutting edge as playing dodge ball in PE classes.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.