The issue of high school coaches coaching their own players outside of the traditional sports season has been an ongoing informal topic of discussion for years. To many, it makes no sense. To others, it’s long overdue.
It became a formal issue for the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association (DIAA) at its most recent monthly meeting.
According to executive director Tommie Neubauer, the DIAA Board of Directors did not vote to send proposed changes to the DIAA regulations that deal with coaching out of season forward to the State Board of Education for final approval. Instead, the board asked its Rules and Regulations Committee to gather input from DIAA Committees, the Delaware Association of Athletic Directors, various high school coaches associations and other groups that could be affected by any changes. The DIAA has requested the committee then work on creating a new set of proposed changes for the board to consider, Neubauer added.
Student-athletes already seek playing opportunities outside the traditional high school seasons. Gone are the days when they played only one sport, and a different one, in each of the three seasons.
While there are still a handful of student-athletes who play three different sports over three different seasons, they also often play at least one of the three during one, if not more, of the traditional high school seasons. And nowadays, no “serious” player would dare take the summer off.
In the fall, there are varsity field hockey players competing in lacrosse tournaments on the weekends. There are soccer players competing for their school in the spring while also playing for travel basketball teams. And these multi-sport schedules are not just happening at the high school level. Many local youth softball and baseball leagues have stopped scheduling weekend games knowing the majority of the players have travel commitments that are their first priority. Local youth lacrosse and flag football leagues schedule all games on Sundays in the spring in order to avoid Saturday baseball and softball games.
Is it out of control? Maybe. But it doesn’t really matter. It is what it is, and the reality is there are only three people who can control how many sports a person plays and when: the parents and the player.
The DIAA can make and enforce all the rules it wants, but that’s not going to keep a student-athlete from playing on another team while competing for their high school. I used to be a big proponent of a high school coach telling players they can only play for their school team – and some coaches probably do – but the reality is, that approach would probably turn into the best players in the building no longer playing for their school team. It’s no secret that the best way to be seen by college coaches isn’t to play in a high school game or even the state tournament, it’s to be on a team that’s playing at major travel tournaments.
When my sons get to high school in a few years, the pressure to play travel sports no matter the season will still exist no matter what the DIAA decides about its coaches coaching out of season. Fortunately, the pressure to play one sport year-round seems to be dissipating, but in its place is the expectation that kids need to play multiple sports during the same season and not miss opportunities to compete at regional and national tournaments.
I’ve accepted the fact that my “old school” thinking isn’t going to change things. Only my wife and I can do that, and only for our own boys.
As long as the DIAA can figure out a way to keep coaching out of season from spiraling out of control – like coaches making players and parents feel they have to play on their travel team in order to have a chance to make the high school team – I am all for it.
After all, if we’ve already decided to put our son’s “sports wellbeing” in the hands of a high school coach for one season, why wouldn’t we for another?
In today’s “new school” sports world, allowing high school coaches who are willing to coach a team in the offseason makes perfect sense.
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