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Coach Defends Academic Teams

February 25, 1993

In regard to the articles about Alhambra school board President Dora Padilla's criticism of the San Gabriel High School Academic Decathlon team for being all Asian, it is abundantly clear that she still "just doesn't get it."

As an experienced Academic Decathlon coach (my highest-scoring team took fifth out of approximately 70 teams in L.A. County), I know that before her thoughtless outburst, Padilla did not bother to learn how the Academic Decathlon works, how coaches select teams or what type of sacrifice the coaches make.

The Academic Decathlon was designed to challenge and provide positive recognition for students who excel academically. Organized 11 years ago, the L.A. County Decathlon consciously uses a sports metaphor for its structure.

The nine-member teams prepare rigorously for 10 written and oral events. They must absorb a prodigious amount of college-level material, and preparing for the one-day "season" often takes six to seven months.

Any good coach will admit that winning is the goal, although it is not the only purpose for entering the competition. This necessarily means putting the best nine students (three A students, three B and three C) into the competition, regardless of race or gender.

The initial training, which is open to any interested student, lasts all summer. The coaches designate the final team placement in late summer, factoring in the students' standardized test scores, oral skills and achievement on practice tests. Coaches must select only the best nine students.

Dora Padilla's inconsiderate comments imply that all seven coaches conspired to exclude non-Asians, a patently absurd claim. No winning coach that I have ever known made team selection based on race. It is as foolhardy to do so as it is unfair and misleading to select any students who clearly have no chance to compete.

Padilla basically accused the two Latino, two Asian and three Anglo coaches of conspiring against Latinos. I challenge her to document a single case of a qualified student being excluded. I know that she cannot do this.



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