High School Sports: Private vs. Public

Kevin CacabelosSenior Analyst IJanuary 20, 2009

This debate has been going on in my head for awhile. What type of school would serve the needs of an athlete better: Public or Private? I've gone to private schools my whole life, so there will be a little bias in my point of view, but I've always wondered if Private or Public schools hold the advantage in nurturing athletes.

The one common thing that can be used to compare the two types of school is their respective current performance. Obviously other things will play a role if you are considering two high schools; the two big things are usually location and cost.

Another variable that should be considered is a certain schools' performance in the sport the prospective athlete plays.

For example, I would not go to Rainier Beach to run cross country, I would go to Rainier Beach if I was a good basketball player. Certain schools are traditionally better at certain sports.

To compare the two types of schools I will be taking a look at one league, Metro 3A. Metro 3A is an interesting case because 6 of the 14 schools are private ones. Here is how the Metro League breaks down:


Nathan Hale
Rainier Beach
Chief Sealth
West Seattle


Bishop Blanchet
Eastside Catholic
Holy Names (All Girls)
O'Dea (All Boys)
Seattle Preparatory

For this study I'll measure the schools performance based on state appearances in seven team sports: football, boys basketball, girls basketball, baseball, boys soccer, girls soccer, and volleyball.

Evidence is from the past five years not including Fall 2008, 2003-2007 (State Appearances):
(*= overall state champion)


O'Dea 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003
Eastside Catholic 2006
Rainier Beach 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003
West Seattle 2004
EDGE: Private

Boys Basketball

Seattle Prep 2008, 2007, 2006*
Rainier Beach 2008*, 2007, 2006, 2005*, 2004*, 2003*
West Seattle 2008
O'Dea 2007*, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003
Bainbridge 2007
Bishop Blanchet 2005
Cleveland 2004

Girls Basketball (Chief Sealth not included)

Bainbridge 2008, 2004
Seattle Prep 2008, 2007, 2006, 2003
Lakeside 2008, 2003*
Holy Names 2006, 2005
Rainier Beach 2005, 2004
Bishop Blanchet 2004
EDGE: Private

Seattle Prep 2008, 2007, 2006
West Seattle 2008, 2006, 2003
Bishop Blanchet 2008, 2004
Eastside Catholic 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003
Bainbridge 2005
O'Dea 2005*, 2003
EDGE: Private

Boys Soccer
Bainbridge 2008
Lakeside 2008, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003
Nathan Hale 2008
Bishop Blanchet 2007, 2006, 2003
Eastside Catholic 2007, 2005
Seattle Prep 2004
EDGE: Private

Girls Soccer
Holy Names 2007
Lakeside 2007, 2006, 2003*
Seattle Prep 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003
Nathan Hale 2005
Bainbridge 2004
EDGE: Private

Bishop Blanchet 2007, 2006, 2004*, 2003
Holy Names 2007, 2004
Bainbridge 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003
Seattle Prep 2003*
Edge: Private

It is clear that private schools outperform their public counterparts in every team sport except Boys Basketball

Here is a list of each sport along with schools that are exceptional at them:

Football: O'Dea
Basketball:  Rainier Beach
Girls Basketball: Seattle Prep
Baseball: Eastside Catholic
Boys Soccer: Lakeside
Girls Soccer: Seattle Prep
Volleyball: Blanchet, Bainbridge

Private schools are dominating the public schools in sports. But why? Why are they showing dominance in the majority of the sports? Funding has to be one of them. Private schools can receive money from big-shot donors and use that money toward whatever sports programs they want.

The alumni base in private schools with rich traditions like O'Dea, Holy Names, or Seattle Prep do not really struggle with finding funding for their athletic programs. Thus, the budget is an independent source within private schools.

There is more flexibility within private schools on where to spend money. This is why you see small schools like Seattle Prep, O'Dea, Blanchet, Eastside Catholic, and Lakeside which would normally be 2A schools have the ability to compete against larger schools in 3A.

With that said, it's important to note that the following public schools in Metro also opt-up to play in the 3A classification: Chief Sealth, Cleveland, Nathan Hale, and Rainier Beach. So, technically, nine out of the 13 schools do not belong in the 3A classification.

Private schools also have the advantage of being able to get kids from wherever. Unlike a public school, where a school must get their athletes from within their district or risk something bad happening like the Tony Wroten incident earlier this year.

Another thing worth mentioning concerning enrollment is that the private schools hold an edge over public schools in the private schools' ability to get every exceptional athlete that attended a private grade school in the Seattle area.

It is well known that several catholic grade schools feed the majority of their students into O'Dea, Holy Names, Blanchet, and Seattle Prep. The private schools are able to make their presence known by their ability to have summer sports' camps that can actually sway a kid's high school decision.

And in one case, Eastside Catholic has their own select basketball program that is supposed to "feed" into their high school, but so far it seems that it's actually made them worst. On the other hand, Eastside Catholic also has their own middle-school football program, and you can see them reaping the benefits of that now.

Besides enrollment, another factor is a private schools' higher standards in academics. It's safe to say that in general, there are less kids academically-ineligible in private schools than in public schools. This is caused by the private schools' admission process.

In regards with the actual athletes in private schools, they are usually just flat-out better skilled. Paying for select soccer, volleyball, and AAU teams costs a lot. Parents that can afford to send their kids to private schools can also afford to spend money on their kids to play on select teams which in turn, improve their skills.

Overall it comes down to money. Unfortunately, money is what drives teams to the top, but that's just a fact of life. Is this dominance by private schools fair? Should there be some rules to "even-out" the playing field?  I can't think of anything. But I could only imagine that the public schools have some resentment against the private schools...