High School Sports Discussion

The National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) recently had a “community discussion” about the hot topic of high school soccer. So, while this may be primarily about soccer, I think this should be about ALL sports. Remove them from the high schools and school districts…make them a “community club” that I have talked about (linked below).

The NSCAA is a nice organization…but with very little power to actually make any changes. It’s nice that they have these discussion groups and forums for soccer coaches, but it would be nice if the NFHS and NCAA actually sought the insight of knowledgeable minds from the NSCAA and USSF (US Soccer Federation). There could be some changes and it could be for the good.

I’ve went on before about my views of high school and youth athletics (you can read the most thorough one here).

The NSCAA brought out some arguments “for” high school soccer. If you don’t know the background and why this is a new debate, the USSF Development Academy approved a 10-month calendar which would mean that high school soccer players would have to make a decision on either playing for their high school OR playing for the Development Academy (DA). This isn’t that new of a debate because sports have the same conflict with many clubs — either in club soccer, AAU basketball, travel softball/baseball, or travel volleyball. It’s just something ELSE because now it’s beyond the high school AND club…a third party is now in it. Oh, and this decision affects 4,000 high school soccer players (or 80 kids per state, averaged).

Here are the bullet points that the NSCAA makes — followed by my “solution.”

High School Benefits:

  1. Peer & community activity heightens emotional connection and can act as a community rallying point
  2. Family environment is incapable of being replicated by clubs and provides unparalleled camaraderie
  3. Experiences & values to last a lifetime
  4. Better players enjoy greater role & more playing time on high school team during their seasons proving critical leadership development
  5. More off-the-field behavioral accountability
  6. Academic focus & accountability via eligibility standards provides motivation & suits preparation for college (high school scholastic experience most closely resembles collegiate scholastic experience)
  7. Intensive physical, mental & emotional demands of 10-14 week high school season accelerates player development (5+ team sessions per week / championship title pursuits / rivalries / school pride / time management / organizational skills for life)
  8. Tradition
  9. Activity promoting diversity & inclusion
  10. Superior access to media attention & team/individual awards & honors
  11. Opportunity to play in front of family, school, community & excited crowds
  12. Individual player development as extension of the classroom / integral to education of the whole child
  13. High school sports often the fabric of community identity & pride
  14. Credibility & strength of high school community is a source for college recommendations
  15. Foreign exchange students from countries lacking high school sports find American high school sports environment exhilarating
  16. Nations without organized high school sports are envious of American high school experience & opportunities

If athletics were removed from the school districts and moved to a “community club” then you can still have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, and 16. A community club would not change any of those aspects. In my mind, #7 is a bunch of hogwash. There is no “accelerating” of “player development” in the 10-14 week high school soccer season. If anyone has dealt with high school athletes, they would know this is the case. For some…maybe it does happen, but for most…definitely not. The reason why club and DAs have come to the forefront is because the lack of development from the high school athletic programs. I think that #13 fits into the “community club” much like high school athletics do…just not called “high school sports” anymore. The pride and community identity can still be there. It is for youth sports that aren’t associated with the schools…so why not at high school? I think that #14 is hogwash too. I also think that #16 is completely fabricated. It is a different experience for most international students, but I wouldn’t say they are envious. If ANYONE has ever been to any foreign country to see the pride and identity that they have in their local community clubs…then high school athletics don’t hold a candle to it.

And for the record, I hate #8…”tradition.” Just because it’s been done this way doesn’t mean it is the right way! Developmentally, it’s terrible. Financially, it’s terrible. I would sacrifice those two for the sake of “tradition.”

High School authority & responsibility:

  1. Ultimate authority over high school attendance reporting lies with the high school
  2. Student grade reporting as required by the NCAA is the responsibility of the high school
  3. Use of all high school affiliations (facilities, high school names as identification, letters of reference to college, etc.) is controlled by high school

These “authorities” and “responsibilities” could still be handled within a community club. There’s no reason why they couldn’t. It would also ensure there is more support because there could be better accountability. Everyone knows stories of principals, administrators, coaches, etc. fudging grades or attendance in order for kids to be eligible to play. They shouldn’t act like high schools (or colleges) are so innocent.

What can high school coaches do?

  1. Market your teams and your programs
  2. Work with your school administrators & associations, so that everyone is clear on the Development Academy policies (Athletic Director, Principal, School Heads, School Boards, State Associations, National Associations)
  3. Proactively approach families and invite them to engage in discussion
  4. Highlight all of the benefits to your communities, schools, parents and young people
  5. Share facts regarding advantages of high school sports involvement
  6. Share facts regarding realities of college scholarships, professional teams, and national team inclusion
  7. Make being a member of your high school team an offer that can’t be refused
  8. Assist athletes choosing to play high school soccer in finding competitive youth clubs that will allow them to play both youth and high school soccer giving them additional exposure to college programs

High school coaches don’t market their teams. Some do…yes, and they do a good job of it. And why should they? They only have their kids for 3 months. I think that 5 and 6 are completely reaching for “benefits and advantages” that high school sports involvement has. Number 7 is also borderline crazy. I have been around MANY high school athletes over the last few years…in many different states. There are tremendous athletes I have come across…they’d be tremendous athletes regardless if they played for their high school. They’d get college scholarships without high school sports.

I wish there’d be a change. The NFHS just doesn’t get the job done…in my opinion. I think there is substantial “facts” that they don’t get the job done either. Playing a sport for 3 months does not help. Remember that 10,000-hour rule (if you don’t, it’s here). In 3 months, you have 2,160 hours (30 day months). In 4 years of high school athletics, you’d only have 8,640 hours. So…with high school athletics, you’d fall 1,360 hours short of the 10,000-hour rule. Too bad…that you only fell 800 hours short of the “benefits and advantages” that high school athletics brings.

To me, it makes sense. It takes the responsibility of athletic development out of the school systems — which should not be a priority for public schools. It allows the school systems to focus on academia…ONLY — which should be the priority for public schools. It allows kids and families to dictate what’s best for them athletically instead of that being dictated by the school systems. It allows for the development in ALL aspects of the high school student-athlete — the hogwash of high school athletics is important because of the playing field being an “extension of the classroom” is laughable.

Times have changed. It’s time that high school athletics makes a change. It’s time for better development. Better financial responsibility of taxpayer’s money. If high school athletics does not make a change, I have no qualms about AAU, clubs, or DAs jumping in and taking every single kid out of the high school athletics scene. Adapt or die.

If, and a big IF, high school athletics will continue to survive, they need to allow sports-specific training in the non-championship season (football practices in the spring if football is played in the fall, volleyball practices in the spring if volleyball practices in the fall). Kids will have to make a decision on what sport they will play. Get out of doing “everything” because it makes them “better.” Specialize…and be the best you can in something. Don’t be mediocre at many things. Nothing wrong with specializing in something and then being mediocre in several things.

Heck, I wouldn’t even mind seeing the NCAA make some changes like this. Wouldn’t it be cool to see universities develop into “academies” of producing the BEST students and/or athletes of all ages? Of providing for MANY people? That would be pretty cool to see. Could you imagine the impact that Ohio State University could have in Columbus with their basketball academy? Could you imagine the impact that any smaller school could have in their smaller communities of being the “premier academy” for band, choir, drama, or chess? Could you imagine the type of support THOSE institutions have? They play a role in developing people of ALL ages for EVERYTHING (or anything they chose to).

Now…I think I am on to something!

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