This is the letter I wrote to a commissioner of the OHSAA (Ohio High School Athletic Association):
I am an assistant men’s soccer coach at a DIII university in Ohio. I have been out of Ohio since 2004 when I went to college in Kentucky. Since 2004, I have had the opportunity to be a part of high school and college soccer in several states: Kentucky, Ohio, South Dakota, Nebraska (recruiting only), and now I am back in Ohio. It is great to be back in Ohio. As an Ohio native, I missed the falls of Ohio soccer season. I enjoy the efforts that the OHSAA, the OSSCA (Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association), the individual districts, the schools, the coaches, and the student-athletes put in each season. As a college coach for three years now, I have had the opportunity to see how several states have done their seasons and state tournaments.
This is, by no means, simply a complaining letter. I hope it can help make things better for college coaches, fans, high school coaches, officials, and student-athletes. I would love to help in any way that I can. I don’t want to just write some “suggestions” while not offering to help and pushing all the responsibility on others. Like yourself, I like to see high school sports and their dreams being played out on a competitive field.
Here are some things that I noticed throughout the season:
- All of the regular season games I went to had 2-man referee systems. I understand that the possible shortage of referees as well as economic reasons play into this decision. To me, it is very detrimental to the players and coaches to have a 2-man system. Safety should be the primary focus from an officials standpoint, and a 2-man system cannot be the least bit safe. To put things into perspective, high school basketball games have 3-man systems — a field is over 15-times the size of a basketball court while also having more than double the amount of student-athletes participating at any given time. Is there any way that this can be righted? If we are going to stay with 2-man systems, the referees must continue working together all season to gain familiarity — if this is already in place, the 2-man systems do not seem to have much familiarity with each other. Familiarity is so much more important with a 2-man system since both officials have whistles, whereas a 3-man system only one official has a whistle and authority in the game.
- During many sectional and district tournament games, there were 2-man referee systems. Meanwhile, at other games, there were 4 and 5 referees working the games?! I do not understand why some games have a shortage of officials and others are overloaded with officials.
- I did see that there were WAY too many ejections during boys high school soccer games. Could this be directly related to a 2-man refereeing system? Now, I do realize that girls high school soccer has the same 2-man system and WAY lower ejections. I think we can assume that boys are going to act completely different than girls during competitions. Do ejections decrease if referee numbers increase during competitions? I think that would be interesting to see. I would assume that the ejections would decrease.
- I went to MANY sectional, district, regional, and even the state championship games. One thing I noticed is that college coaches don’t get in free. In other states that I have seen games, college coaches have gotten a “pass” for these events. To me, it makes sense. If you want your high school student-athletes to potentially stay in-state to study and potentially participate in intercollegiate athletics, wouldn’t you want to make it easier on the colleges/universities? These institutions have tight budgets, especially now in this financial crisis. Helping save the institutions money would be a nice gesture. It could also open up the opportunity for college coaches to save their own money if they have to cover recruiting costs because they may have limited budgets.
- During the tournament games, which are often better for college coaches to get to, why aren’t schools or host sites providing rosters and/or game programs? This should almost be a mandatory requirement if an institution is hosting a game or games. My head coach and I went to two different semifinal games, on the same day, and there were NO programs at semifinal games?! This isn’t just at the semifinal games, this is at most tournament games. Coaches utilize the game programs when scouting the teams. It is nice to have names, numbers, and grade levels right there in front of you so you know who you can contact, talk to, and potentially recruit. As a DIII coach, it is an NCAA violation for me to talk with juniors personally (unless they are on campus) — I don’t want to risk a violation because I had no idea a student-athlete was a junior. And, in many cases, the school’s roster is not posted online for reference.
- The finals at Crew Stadium were put on very nicely. I think the parking fee was a bit high, especially considering that you could not exit and reenter. The concessions were outrageously high. These are not conducive to many peoples’ budgets. One thing that would be nice is to have a “suite” for college coaches and/or high school coaches. These places are extremely nice for networking and recruiting purposes. In Kentucky, they provided hospitality tents during the first tournament games all the way through! In South Dakota, we had a hospitality room for the college coaches to connect with high school coaches. It’s a great way to “treat” coaches for coming out, participating in the events, and is a nice conclusion to a great fall season. When there is 1.5+ hours to wait in between games, no reentry, and high concessions prices, a place to go, chat, and stay entertained would be great! If Crew Stadium is going to continue hosting, why not use the Upper90 Club for it — if possible? That would be a great time!
- I am still not “up to snuff” on the hosting of tournament sites. I know schools “bid” or “say” they can be a host site for certain games. I was at the debacle at Watkins Memorial when Berlin Hiland was supposed to play Worthington Christian. I find it hard to believe that that situation could not have been handled better. I believe Watkins dropped the ball big time. I believe whoever was saying “the game must go on” dropped the ball. I think the referees handled the situation perfectly considering all other matters — they must be commended with their bold decision. The field was in horrendous condition — a tractor got stuck in the middle of a goal!
- Traveling to tournament games is fun to me. I really enjoy seeing different parts of the state. Getting to see different facilities that are being utilized. But one thing that was really evident is the lack of multiple games at one site. It happened on occasion. But, it was not regular. Would making multiple games at specific host sites allow for more officials to be utilized during tournament play. This has probably been talked about before. But I am just curious to know if it would actually help. One specific occasion that sticks out is a game at Copley High School started at 6:00pm (or so) then at 7:00 there was a game between Medina High School and Cloverleaf. These games were at multiple locations even though they were not far from each other. I thought that was rather interesting.
- Over the past number of years, I understand that the OHSAA tournament results on the OHSAA website has become very good in terms of referencing to results of games. Since I am new to the state tournament again, I will say that the online brackets were very helpful and updated rather quickly. Sometimes the games were updated before I even got home from recruiting a game. Those in charge of updating the website and brackets, definitely need to be commended on this. It can become a hassle trying to update several games that happen night after night.
- The last thing may be rather tough, but I think it can be done. I know that highschoolsports.net has tried to be that “go to” with high school sports schedules and results, but that’s just another site or third party to go check out. I think the OHSAA could have the best master schedule that can be found online. I also believe the rosters could be added online. They could be available for college coaches, high school coaches, and the school administrators. This is a reference to any college coaches, high school coaches, or even fans to go to the OHSAA website to find games that may be happening in specific areas throughout the state. Logistically, it would be a pain to start, but I think once the schools, coaches, and ADs got used to it, there would be very few problems with it.
I want to thank you for what you do for high school sports in Ohio. As challenging as it is, it’s a task that has been well done for many years. Yes, it may not be perfect, but what is? There are frustrations that our member institutions have with the NCAA. As the times change, I think it’d be good for organizations to evolve as well. One day, we may see the NCAA evolve a little more. I hear the grumblings with the private/public high school debate here in Ohio. I think things can continue to be done to provide the best possible opportunities for high school student-athletes to compete on their respective playing fields.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.