Why we hate Valor Christian

This story originally appeared in Mile High Sports Magazine. Read the full digital edition.

Editor’s Note: After writing a column titled “Loathed or Loved (Valor Christian is both)” prior to this year’s 5A state football championship game, I truly realized what a polarizing topic Valor Christian High School has become within the landscape of high school sports in Colorado. I knew this already, to a degree, but the feedback – of which there was far more than a typical column – was passionate and detailed. We literally received essays from both sides of the argument. The responses ranged from venomous to defensive, from thoughtful to absurd. Following the Broncos-Chargers game at Sports Authority Field, when the team honored this year’s state football champs at halftime and Valor Christian actually received boos from the home crowd, I thought it was time to further examine this phenomenon.

Who better to ask than D-Mac? A father of a competitive high school student. A man with strong opinions. A man who makes a living by looking at both sides of an argument.

Do I agree with the results below? Parts, no question. Are the assumptions and assertions that D-Mac offers factual and accurate? I can’t say with a 100 percent degree of certainty. I can only say that this is what he believes to be true. The exercise was not to have our columnist pen an investigative report; instead, it was to answer the question honestly and personally. This is what he came up with. You might agree. You might disagree. You might do a bit of both. Regardless, it’s a topic worthy of discussion and consideration.

Perhaps you’ll answer the same question I posed to D-Mac: Why do we hate Valor Christian? Or, maybe after reading his thoughts, you might ask yourself a different question:

Should we?

{Doug Ottewill, Editor-in-Chief}

***

The only reason we hate Valor is because we hate ourselves.

Hating Valor is our problem, not theirs.

We created Valor and have nobody to blame but ourselves. One of the greatest movie lines of all time occurs in The Social Network when the Winklevoss Twins are suing Mark Zuckerburg. At a deposition, as Zuckerburg is being accused of ripping off their ConnectU idea, he says, “If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.”

If you didn’t want to lose to Valor, you’d go to Valor.

Neil Devlin of the Denver Post wrote a fantastic article about high school baseball this past spring. He suggested that the regular season be extended into the summer so that state championship play wouldn’t get snowed out. What a novel concept. This will never happen because it would mean that athletic directors and administrators would have to work beyond the school year. Good luck getting that done.

Meanwhile, Valor went out and hired George Gwozdecky to be their hockey coach. Gwoz has a decent résumé. He coached DU to a national championship and most recently was an assistant coach for last year’s Stanley Cup runner-up Tampa Bay Lightning. What did your high school hockey coach do last year? Valor ice hockey isn’t very good – yet. But wait until you see what happens in a couple of years when the parents at Valor, and the school’s sponsors, build their own rink. If you are a hockey player and you go to Grandview, you play for Cherry Creek. In case you didn’t know, kids from Grandview despise kids from Creek. It must be such a joy to be a Wolf in Bruins clothing.

Missy Franklin didn’t go to Valor, but she did attend Regis. Well within the rules of high school sports, Missy competed for Team USA in the Olympics and then swam in the Colorado State Championships. What do you think the girl who came in second place in states was thinking as she saw Missy in the starting blocks? Did she look up into that toothy, gold medal grin and think, “Gee this is super”? Or do you think she muttered “dammit” under her breath knowing that her high school career was doomed to finish in Franklin’s wake?

Missy didn’t live next door to Regis. Regis wasn’t in her neighborhood. She didn’t get on the bus to go to school. She chose Regis and her parents paid her way just as they had been paying for private swimming lessons, training and swimming clubs for her entire life. The same is true for many of the kids that go to Valor. Is there really a difference?

This is why we hate Valor.

We are jealous. However, we are also lazy.

Have you ever attended a high school booster club meeting? If you aren’t planning on being waterboarded, but you want the same sensation, give it a shot. Well-intentioned adults attempt to raise thousands of dollars for their specific sport. Some parents are involved because they are convinced if they don’t do something, their kids will never play. Sadly, they are often times correct. The schools barely fund any activity at the high school level. The reason you get pestered at work with wreaths, butter braids and Rockies tickets is because parents know if they don’t sell this crap, their kid’s team is going to get killed by Valor. In addition, underpaid high school coaches are desperately trying to keep kids on their own private club teams in the non-high school season in order to improve their performance in the high school season. This is where high schools have totally lost the sporting war.

A typical high school basketball team will play around 19 games a year and then the playoffs. In the state of Colorado, CHSAA rules dictate that teams must take a break during the winter holidays. A stoppage like that in the season seems to make sense. However, a typical club team will play triple the amount of games and travel all over the state and across the country, playing on every holiday imaginable. Holidays simply mean more games. Often, the high school coach is a club coach, as well. Good luck getting off the bench and onto the court during the high school season if you aren’t on the bench playing for your high school coach during the club season.

High School hockey is sadly a joke. The best kids in the state don’t even play high school hockey at all. The best kids play at the AAA level for a team like the Thunderbirds. If you are a 15-year-old Thunderbird kid, you will have made the team in August and play in possibly 10 or more out-of-state tournaments. Your hockey year will go longer than an NHL season. You may play high school hockey for fun, but most likely the $10-15K your parents are dropping on your sport in hopes that you get drafted or get a college offer will preclude you from high school fun. Joe Sakic thought so much of the local high school hockey scene he sent one of his kids out of state to a private school that focuses on guess what? Yep. Hockey.

It was my dream as a little kid to play varsity high school baseball. Now, no serious kid cares all that much about winning a high school baseball state title. Sure, it’s cool to play with your buddies, but your baseball buddies most likely play for several different high schools. You most likely play for a for-profit private club organization that offers professional coaching and travels to high level showcases so you can be “seen.” Sure, scouts may come to high school games, but more of them are found in November and December, indoors at private events, where you can get individually ranked. In an increasingly disgusting fashion, high school coaches are also private hitting and pitching instructors. Can you believe high school administrators allow coaches within their own systems to charge kids playing in their system for private lessons? What happened to simply coaching the kids? Now I have to pay the coach to coach my kid? What if I don’t do that? Will my kid see the light of day on the playing field? Why are high school coaches allowed to use the high school facilities for their own private lessons? It’s disgusting and foul and should be stopped immediately. But, it goes on. Why?

So public school kids can compete with Valor.

My brother is loaded. He deserves every dime he has. He made it big on Wall Street after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. After a tragic event led to the death of his 13-day-old baby, he went back to school and got his MD from Dartmouth. He is an extremely successful radiologist and his wife is also a successful oncologist. They decided to take their oldest high school son, who was already in a private high school, and place him in a private ski academy in New Hampshire. Guess what? He’s wicked good at skiing. My oldest son, who is now a junior in high school, was life long friends with a boy named Matt. They went to the same elementary school and middle school together. Years and years ago, it would’ve been a no-brainer for them go through their teenage years together and remain lifelong friends. We’ve barely seen Matt for the past three years because his family decided he needed better ski training, so they sold their huge house and moved into a tiny condo in Vail so Matt could attend a prestigious ski academy in the mountains. Guess what? He’s wicked good at skiing. I guess my son will just have to find other – poorer – friends.

We hate Valor because we haven’t worked hard enough or smart enough to engage kids in our own schools. We looked the other way as more sophisticated club programs offered highly competitive, year-round training and competition. The three sport athlete is a bygone concept, but we act as if it should be the norm. Get your head out of the sand!

Valor simply stepped in and said, “Hey all you parents who have been pouring thousands of dollars into training your kids, we care about that and about you. We are going to grow your kids and not stifle their progress. We are going to be an extension of your club sport, not some bizarre wasteland.”

Does this make Valor admirable? No, of course not. Valor is the monster that we have created due to the lack of adaptation to the growing club sport scene. They don’t compete on the same playing field as their competition. They charge parents ungodly amounts of cash that essentially amount to the logical extension of the club sport system. I’m sure Valor touts a generous scholarship program that benefits needy families. But, let’s be honest, most families are paying the full weight. The folks that created Valor realized that to propagate their philosophical, educational and religious visions, they needed to offer the best of everything. The best way to fulfill that vision was to simply have the parents pay for it. They were right and we are left to boo high school kids.

When the Broncos hosted the Chargers in their final home game of the year, all of the Colorado high school football championship teams were honored. From 6-man to 5A, the best of the best were feted and acknowledged. It was a super-cool moment until Valor was announced. Their football success has been awesome to watch. They have won championships at every level and recently blistered the competition as another McCaffrey starred for their dominant dynasty. Former Valor star Christian McCaffrey awed the nation at Stanford and came in second in the Heisman balloting. This is a program that folks in Colorado should stand up and applaud. This is a program that should be copied and hailed.

Nope.

Boos from the stands.

Adults in Colorado, who all root for the Broncos, were actually booing high school kids. Booing high school kids!

Why?

Christian McCaffrey on his Twitter page has a picture of himself and some of his ex-Valor teammates proclaiming they shall keep a stiff upper lip against all the “haters.” I think the world of Christian, and I’ve known Ed and Lisa for years. They have earned everything they have and I wish them nothing but success in the future. All four of their boys have graduated from or are currently attending Valor. I love Brian Dawkins. He was an incredible player and an even better father and husband. His son went to Valor. Chad Brown is a very good friend. His son goes to Valor. There is no way I’m “hating” on my friends’ kids who go to Valor. I root for my friends’ kids to succeed, as I hope they root for my kids to succeed. We all know, because Colorado is a “Schools of Choice” state – an open enrollment concept that was originally (and still is) born with academics in mind, although sports, as they often do, bring the subject to light frequently – that talented kids have followed talented coaches to schools far beyond their neighborhood boundaries.

For the record, I don’t hate Valor. However, what is happening isn’t right either.

Smoky Hill High School has been brutalized in high school football. For over 30 years, Smoky has been an incredible leader in education as their IB program has been a shining beacon. However, they have been eviscerated athletically due to boundary line adjustments to satisfy the development of Grandview High School. Kids who live one block east of Smoky and Buckley are forced to go to a school twice the distance from their house. They could easily walk or take a bike to Smoky, but instead they have to be bussed to Grandview.

In addition, there are million-dollar homes in the Piney Creek area less than a mile from Smoky. Kid after kid in these neighborhoods who should be going to Smoky are applying to and getting into Regis. The Smoky football team has felt the harsh force of these developments. Sports like cross country, swimming, soccer, baseball and basketball (Smoky dramatically beat Regis at the buzzer in the state playoffs just two years ago) have all survived just fine, but football was another story. Smoky has been around longer than any of its surrounding Centennial league rivals, but the football program got worse and worse. In the end, they were being absolutely humiliated so much that they had to drop out of the Centennial League – but only in football. They remain a 5A school, but are relegated to a lower level of competition – only in football. There really isn’t much the kids can do about it, and it’s unlikely the program will ever return to any kind of gridiron glory. They have simply lost too many good kids. When Smoky, amidst abysmal football failure, dropped out of the Centennial League, it created an opening. Guess who took their spot in one of the most competitive leagues in the state for football? You guessed it…

Valor.

Never mind that Valor is in Highlands Ranch, nowhere close to Creek, Cherokee Trail, Grandview, et al. It’s not about “the neighborhood” anymore, it’s about the highest level of competition. So, if Smoky has to be put down like Old Yeller, well, then so be it. Instead of telling Valor there wasn’t a conference to compete in so they would need to be the Notre Dame of high school football, the adults in charge simply pushed out the weak sister.

Instead of reconfiguring boundary lines so that kids could go to the closest school (what a concept!), the adults told Smoky to pound sand and look forward to that homecoming game against Grand Junction. I kid you not, Smoky played its biggest game of the year against a team that had to drive in from four hours away. In dramatic fashion, Smoky came from behind to win. The electric night was capped when Smoky’s QB ran into the stands to hug his mom. Grand Junction was disappointed. However, the game was in the Stutler Bowl (the home stadium of Cherry Creek) so only about 15 or so Grand Junction fans were there to witness the disappointment.

High school sports have increasingly become about the haves and the have nots. There have been amazing athletes from our local schools who have made it big and serve as inspirational figures, but also provide false hope. Valor is simply keeping it all above board.

Their message: If you come here, you will pay a lot and get a lot.

They have delivered on their promise and will continue to do so. And because of that, they’ll likely hold a competitive advantage Colorado until public schools collectively put their foot down and vow not to compete with private schools. Until our state decides it wants to change the laws surrounding Public Schools of Choice, some schools – both private and public – will have advantages.. And until schools themselves improve to the degree where kids will want to go to school in their own neighborhoods, the Schools of Choice program will not change.

Meanwhile, the club sports and private trainers will continue to move into your neighborhoods, promising gold at the end of the tunnel. Don’t you want your kid to be just like Christian McCaffrey? Don’t you want your kid to go to Valor?

Don’t kid yourself. Of course you do.

As I was driving my Smoky Hill junior home the other night, I asked him, “Why do kids hate Valor?”

His response?

“Because they are just like Regis… except better.”

Read the other side: “Defending Valor Christian” by Doug Ottewill

SHARE