One of the most difficult jobs at Palisades Charter High School might be heading the athletic program because of interacting with athletes, coaches, parents and – raising money.
PaliHi Athletic Director Rocky Montz, who grew up in Pacific Palisades, made it sound easy when he spoke to the Palisades Optimist Club on Tuesday.
Montz, who has also coached football at PaliHi for the past 13 years, is in his second year as the PaliHi AD.
He received his bachelor’s degree from Trinity College and his master’s degree from USC. Montz oversees nearly 900 students, who participate in 27 varsity sports and numerous JV and freshman teams.
Of that number, there are 89 dual athletes and six who participate in three sports, but with a school of almost 3,000 students that means that nearly one-third of students participate in sports.
“Sports are important because kids get to represent their school,” Montz said. “It is an education-based program, which provides a huge benefit for athletes.”
Even as sports and enrollment declines at other City schools, such as Westchester now has 600 students (used to be 2,000), Crenshaw has 450 students and Dorsey 600, PaliHi continues to draw students.
There are 156 schools in the City Section and Montz said, “the City Section now has more charter schools than public schools.”
“The general trend in the City Section is less kids are participating in sports, but Pali has a healthy athletic program,” Montz said, emphasizing the fact that athletics are tied into educational excellence at PaliHi. “Seven of the teams won the City Academic Award last year.”
The grade average is compiled for each team in the City Section, and Palisades came out on top in boys and girls water polo, wrestling, girls soccer and girls volleyball and girls and boys lacrosse.
Additionally, because so many of PaliHi teams made the semis and finals (15 teams participated in the CIF playoffs) the school received ranking points. Those points are factored against other City schools, and the Dolphins captured the Commissioner’s Cup for the seventh time since its inception in 2014-2015 (two years no Cup was awarded because of the pandemic).
CIF wrote, “Congratulations to Palisades Charter on its seventh consecutive Cup! In one of the closest races to date, the Dolphins 424 points and seven titles to prevail over Granada Hills Charter (386 points and six titles) and Birmingham Charter (382 points and nine titles).
Montz spoke about the goal of athletics at Pali. “Athletes have better grades during the season they’re playing,” he said, and explained being on a team is being part of something bigger than the individual student. “It provides them teammates, who become friends for life.
“A team requires commitment,” he said. “If someone plays on a team, they are expected to practice five days a week and up to four months, particularly if a team makes the playoffs.
“Sports teach collaboration. Even in individual sports like golf, a team member relies on others.
“Kids want to do sports,” Montz said.
He said that athletics is getting more complicated. With club sports so prevalent, it means those athletes bring that mind set to the campus.
PaliHi is not allowed to recruit, and now “our kids are getting poached,” he said, noting that private schools, including Chaminade, Loyola and Cathedral have lured at least four strong athletes away from Pali with scholarships for the coming school year.
Montz questions if it’s in the kids’ best interest to be taken away from people they’ve bonded with and maybe grown up with, just to go to a school for a year or two. It is as if some high schools are using a professional sports model to gain athletes.
“Sure, the school earns a championship with the students,” Montz said. “It’s important to win, but not while sacrificing an athlete.”
With some sports at Pali, Montz struggles to find competitive matches for his athletes because other City Section schools either do not have a sport or have a diminished program.
Funding for sports at PaliHi is sparse. “Transportation costs have skyrocketed and the largest portion of transportation to away games is paid for by booster clubs,” he said. That means that parents and clubs have to raise money.
Although the school pays for equipment and uniforms, individual sports budgets are highly subsidized by the parents.
Montz adds, “I have to talk to the administration and convince the school the value of athletics.”
He has high praise for PaliHi coaches, who he says are paid little. In order to work with athletes, coaches must take courses that include CPR and atrial fibrillation, concussion protocol and hazing.
If he had one wish, it would be for athletic trainer on campus. “I know the value of trainers. I would like to have a full-time trainer,” he said. “That would be huge.”