Back to School 2014: Do early sports practices affect tourism?

NEENAH – The signs of fall are back on the field, even though the calendar still says August.

“First full practice started at 7 a.m.,” said Trevor Entwisle, a senior football player at Neenah High School.

“Everyone else kind of gets their break from school, but we’re here working hard every day,” said Jacob Brazee, also a senior on Neenah’s squad.

More than sixty students suited up on the practice fields at Neenah High School. But they won’t be in the classrooms until September 2.

“Four weeks in, it does give us an opportunity to spend a lot of time on football and then the football season is a lot shorter,” said Neenah Head Coach Steve Jung. “However, it does take away from your summer.”

Football parents in Neenah say vacations must be planned before August.

“The issue with athletics is it takes a chunk of the day. It’s hard to put blocks of days together to try to do something as a family,” said Chris Haese, as he waited to pick up his son, a sophomore, from practice.

It’s not just the football players heading back early.

All fall sports in the WIAA start before September. That includes volleyball, golf, cross country, swimming, diving, and tennis.

“We’re going to have about 450 kids out for our fall sports,” said Jung. “2100 students go to this school. About a quarter of the population are involved in fall sports.”

For private schools like Xavier in Appleton, there’s only a three week gap between when practice starts and when school begins.

“It doesn’t have too big of an effect. Kids are used to coming in and playing basketball or lifting, or that kind of stuff. So, they’re accustomed to being at school every day,” said Xavier Football Head Coach Dave Hinkens.

However, state law says public schools can’t start class before September first.

That’s been in place since 2000.

The later start date is intended to keep families traveling and boost tourism.

So, has it worked? The state says it doesn’t keep month-to-month data. But the tourism board says the quarter with July, August and September is the most profitable.

The Green Bay Visitor and conventions bureau says Brown County gets a boost from a different football team this month. And while it’s a big month, August tourism trends can be tricky to predict.

“It really depends on the age category that the children are in. The beginning part of the summer, there’s a lot of soccer league and little leagues that tie families up in the June and July period, at which August is a big travel month for them. But for some of the older, high school-aged kids and even some of the intermediate, they do get into practices for athletics that start sometimes in August but we do still see August as being a very big month,” said Brad Toll, with the Green Bay Visitors and Conventions Bureau.

Though area families may still travel to attractions in the month of August, places like Bay Beach say they may have to adjust their staffing.

“We are a mix of high school and college students, so you know we’ll have a pretty good sized bug out here in the next month or so,” said Tina Westergaard, the Green Bay Special Facilities Manager. “We try to work around their schedules.”

Students we spoke to say they still find enough time for work and play–when they’re not playing their sport.

“It’s not too hard. You have your practice in the morning and then you pretty much have the rest of the day to hang out with your friends and relax. So it’s not too bad, especially when you love the game,” said Entwisle.

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