High school sports shouldn’t depend so much on which city has the most money, writes the editorial board.

The value of high school sports is obvious. Young athletes, with rare exceptions, do not prepare for a lifetime in the professional ranks or even at the college level. Most will continue their sports after high school casually, if at all. But there is so much to gain.

Young people learn to be part of a team. They put their own benefits on hold for the greater good. They win and lose as a group and form bonds that can last a lifetime. And during the competition, they can learn lessons that are better training for the real world than anything they could find in a classroom.

It is sad, then, to reflect on the lessons they are learning about the inherent injustice in our society. They learn that where you were born and how much money your parents have may matter more than how hard you work. They learn that some games are rigged from the start.

A series of stories from Hearst Connecticut Media reporters uncovers the daunting realities of high school sports in Connecticut, something casual observers have certainly noticed over the years but never seen in such detail. Rich cities win championships. Poor communities find it difficult to form a team. Players and coaches can put the same level of effort into neighboring cities and see vastly different results, and it’s much more than the skill level that determines those results.

Like almost everything else, high school sports cost money. There are playgrounds, training facilities, equipment and uniforms. There are summer camps and off-season training. Coaches themselves cost money, and good ones can earn more at schools with larger budgets. Players whose parents can afford to provide them with everything they need to succeed are bound to fare better than those whose families struggle to get by.

The results are clear. Wealthy towns win state championships in Connecticut at much higher rates than their counterparts lower on the economic ladder. In the same way that test scores and college acceptance rates are higher in affluent schools, so are trophy sizes.

It goes against everything we like to tell young people about sports. We like to say that every game starts 0-0, everything is equal once the game starts. Everyone involved knows, or should know, that this is not true. Youngsters who have done nothing to deserve to be left behind too often start the game already in the hole.

As with almost everything in education, there are solutions, if the state and its leaders dare to try them. We don’t need to punish young people for decisions made by others, sometimes decades earlier when they drew the city limits. Schools could be integrated, constituencies redrawn and funding sources rebalanced so that everyone has the same resources from the start.

Such solutions will never be easy to find. Too many people see our society as zero-sum, where one person’s gain means another’s loss. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

Opening up opportunities for young people, both in the classroom and on the playground, benefits everyone. Nobody has to lose if more people have a chance to win.

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