Recently, the State Secondary Schools Activities Commission passed a rule change that would allow middle and high school coaches an additional three weeks in the summer to work with their student-athletes. This, along with the current three weeks available to them now in June, would mean coaches could practice nearly all summer, with the exception of the week of July 4.
The proposal now goes to the state Board of Education who must approve it before it could go into effect.
On the surface, these additional weeks would seem to make sense, especially for smaller schools who depend on athletes playing multiple sports in order to field competitive teams. “For small schools, I think it would help,” Wheeling Central, boys basketball coach Mel Stephens said. “With the three-week period, if you have kids who are doing multiple sports, they have to make a choice of what one they want to do during that period. How much we would use (the additional weeks)? I don’t really know. But I think it would be a good thing to eliminate packing everything into those three weeks.”
But there are good reasons why this proposal should be given serious consideration, and not just glossed over and passed. Athletics do play an important role in the development of kids. Many studies have shown that student athletes do better in school than do kids who are not involved in extra-curricular activities.
But athletics swallow a major portion of students’ time. Many kids now play sports year-round. In the summer, many are on AAU basketball teams, which often travel hundreds of miles to play on the weekends. Many also play on travel baseball and softball teams. Adding three weeks of summer practice of course cuts into vacation time unless a family wishes to use the week of July 4.
Another aspect of this rule change is that it could put unneeded pressure on kids who may feel their playing time during the school year may depend on their attendance at these added summer practices.
Many coaches who support the measure say most schools already offer year-round supervised conditioning programs for athletes, so kids will already be at schools during many of these additional weeks. And, yes, for some kids, having a structured activity would be an alternative to hanging out doing nothing and possibly getting into trouble.
Athletics are a big part of the lives of many students and their families. It should not, however, be the only part. If passed, principals should ensure this additional practice time is not abused by obsessive coaches who may forget their No. 1 priority is the well-being of their kids, and not their won-lost record during the school year.