A column by Shawn Rine, sports editor of The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register
WHEELING, W.Va. — The state Board of Education could change the landscape of high school sports in West Virginia today when it considers a proposal that would afford coaches the opportunity to work with players year round.
It should simply say no.
This same measure was approved last year by the West Virginia Secondary Activities Commission, just as it was this time – by a single vote. The difference is, a year ago the BOE didn’t even schedule it for a 30-day comment period but has decided to do so this time.
There are a number of reasons why this is not a good idea, not the least of which is it would take away the one thing nobody ever should – someone’s childhood. There’s plenty of time for our children to get a job in the real world, which if memory serves comes around rather quickly anyway.
”The big thing is, kids need to be kids,” Bishop Donahue football coach John Durdines said. ”They need to have their summers and go on vacations and things like that.
”We put too much emphasis – I hate to say this as a coach – on athletics, and not enough on academics. At the end of the day we are a high school and the teaching is what is important.”
That’s right, academics.
Sports and vacations are not the only things happening during the summer. As John Marshall principal and SSAC Board of Directors member Rick Jones pointed out, there are a plethora of academic opportunities available, as well as things such as 4-H camps and Boys and Girls State.
”And right now with the three-week period we have in the summer, (coaches) all want these kids,” Jones said. ”If you’re a multiple-sport athlete you may have football in the morning, a baseball camp or clinic that you have to be a part of in the afternoon, and then a Wheeling Rec basketball game at night.
”A lot of kids will have to choose between a 7-on-7 scrimmage or a basketball game, and some coaches would get upset if they choose football over basketball or vice versa.”
Wheeling Park boys’ basketball coach Michael Jebbia chooses not to have that issue. Recently Jebbia’s team had a tournament in Fairmont but he told his multi-sports performers who had football in the morning, that they didn’t have to go.
Obviously, not all kids would be so lucky.
”In West Virginia with the smaller schools, I can’t imagine what they would go through,” Jebbia said. ”Are you going to pay coaches all year? There are a lot of questions there if it would happen to pass.
”I don’t think year round is the answer. Maybe a separate proposal where you get a bit more time in the fall or the spring or whatever, is the answer.”
Along those lines, Jones has already been thinking ahead. He teamed up with Wheeling Park administrators recently to draw up a proposal that allows coaches to move freshmen up and down from varsity to junior varsity, and it passed unanimously.
”If it doesn’t pass I would get with Wheeling Park again and schools in different parts of the state where we know principals,” Jones said. ”Maybe not have year round, but say 15 days that you could do whenever you want.
”My gut tells me they are not going to pass it, but if it does that would have to be handled by the individual administrations.
”That would mean Casey (AD Casey Storm) and I would be making up the parameters for JM – not going to have football all winter and baseball all summer.”
Count Magnolia baseball coach Dave Cisar among those who oppose the measure. All of his sons grew up playing multiple sports and he wants to see that type of thing continue.
”In my mind the minuses outweigh the positives,” he said. ”Would the kids be in the middle of two coaches fighting over them?
”From a larger state’s perspective it might be an ideal thing. We’re not Texas or Florida. In a state like West Virginia, especially the small schools where you have mostly two- and three-sport athletes, it would be really tough.”
Durdines promises he’s not going to change a thing about how he coaches, regardless if the vote passes. Unless of course the ruling somehow becomes mandatory. Even, he said, if that puts his team behind the 8-ball, which Durdines doesn’t believe would be the case anyway.
”You look at Jesse Padlow last year. He excelled at three sports – baseball, basketball and football – and if pressed I think he probably would have picked football,” Durdines said. ”I don’t like to put that pressure on kids.
”I love football and I want my kids to enjoy it.
”I honestly think high school football, especially in West Virginia, is so huge. People plan their Friday and Saturday nights around the games. Why change what we’ve got?”
Several around the state have gone on record as being for the measure, but that doesn’t mean it should be taken seriously. If it’s really about the kids as I strongly believe it is, the answer needs to be a resounding ‘no’.
Shawn Rine can be reached via email at: [email protected]