How We Can Eliminate The Impact Of Club Sports On Our High School Sports
The ways that we can truly help our kids in the long run
In today’s athletic environment the rise of club sports has had a huge impact on high school sports. It trickles into every single sport you can think of, soccer (where it is biggest), volleyball, basketball (think AAU), football (think 7v7), baseball, softball and much more. The rise of club sports is due to several factors: 1. the desire for parents to give their kids a leg up athletically 2. the desire for athletes and parents to earn an athletic scholarship 3. the desire to do their chosen sport more often and 4. the desire to see our better competition. These are issues that almost every state organization attempts to address by making the biggest fundamental mistake it can. High School coach regulation.
What do i mean by high school coach regulation? Well, before I address this I want to explain my background so you better understand where I am coming from, so you can see where I am going. I played Division 1 football at UCONN, I am a parent, I am a head high school football coach, I run my own football club team, and I own NUC Sports which is one of the largest football event companies designed to help athletes with event to get them recruited for college. I spend a lot of time with college coaches with recruiting and I can tell you that everyone including me wishes we can work with our own kids more. Now the rules of the state of NJ are very good with letting us train them strength wise and conditioning wise and even basic skill movements. The issue is when we want to work with our kids in a more significant manner, like some form of practice. This is where the club sports take over. Athletes that want to get more and address the three areas i mentioned in the rise of club sports, choose to seek out alternatives because they cannot address the fundamental needs that i mentioned. People can debate the morality or the overuse or the other VALUE based issues they want, but my experience tells me the athlete and parent wants more from their experience not less.
The pundits will tell youths will kill other sport season but see it the opposite way. It think it will encourage more participation, increase collaboration of high school coaches to get other sports that can help them and my proposal will show you how. The reason club is a problem is that anyone can coach your kid, little to no background checks, and little to no oversight. Its not uncommon to see at a club event a parent argue with a coach during or after a game, kids getting in fights and referees being berated. This kind of behavior has consequences at the high school level but not at the club level. Now there are many great coaches at the club level and their are many great individuals and maybe we can find a way to get them more involved with our schools. So we need to find the ways to improve high school so we can do that. If we allowed our coaches to be more involved and give them more leeway you will see less of coaches being concerned about what their athletes do, more impact in helping other sports and increased support from the parents. Ok, now I am going to address both at the regulations state level.
#1. The state should allow the high school coaches to work with their own athletes in their sport out of season. Restrict physical contact levels, restrict it to a number of times per week and have this reported online using technology. For example, strength and conditioning is not and should never be regulated, that should be up to the coach, but at the sport level, I.E throwing a football with their coach, the old 1970’s Open Gym concept is not good enough. We must allow our coaches the ability to work with their athletes a certain number of times per week, I recommend 1–2 and then a certain number of competition per year like 4–5 and make it that this must be on a sunday (this will ensure no other sport conflict). This will in one swoop climate half of the club based programs.
#2. We must create a reward based system that provides either financial or status that provides incentives for high school athletics and athletes to be rewarded for playing multiple sports. This can be done numerous ways but I think if you incent the individual schools you will find that the athletic director and the other coaches will encourage the athletes to do multiple sports. We do it with an incentive program based on points with our own team, i have seen our hockey coach reward different point levels and no longer with the hockey coach have to worry about forming his club, he will have the incentive to take care of things right at the school level. In addition we should compensate the coaches for working with their kids in the offseason and include it in the budget or charge the individual families a small participation fee and use that to compensate the coaches. This creates as situation where everyone wins and you create a more full time atmosphere for the coaches. Coaches at the high school level more and more are looking to be full time coaches and creating this will create more of that atmosphere.
#3. The state should partner with business that run events and try to create these certifications with the state that creates validity and legitimacy to the events. They don’t have to over regulate but instead certify and say that this event is a legit event and create a database that works with colleges to help them understand the events and what they can attend.
#4. The state department of education should recognize playing sports as part of the graduation curriculum, as physical education gets squeeze in various states as a requirement, we should work to create physical education, health education, strength and conditioning and sport participation as a part of the curriculum for graduation. If colleges are offering scholarships primarily based off athletic ability, why should this not be considered an educational skill. There is no better leadership academy than the academy of sport and having this a part of the graduation requirements will increase participation, create better health, prepare kids for life and how to compete and will improve self esteem and body image. We are stuck in a model in education with respect to sports and physical education from the 1970’s and the desire to change this must be clear. The purists of physical education will say that competition takes away form physical education but that is not the point the point is we should have a choice as to what contributes to our education and for athletes it is sport. For non-athletes it might be to stay in shape and healthy and our programs should have this too.
#5. Create an educational forum on recruiting and the education of recruiting for athletes and parents. The school guidances counselors are overtasked and under educated on recruiting and should not bear that burden. The athletic directors and even the coaches should only bear that burden if they choose. We should have a partnership and coordinated program with the schools and colleges to help athletes learn the recruiting process so they can make informed decisions. They need to learn more now.
Listen, the more we restrict our coaches and programs the more club will continue to rise and take away from high school. Restricting regulation always works the opposite of what you would expect. It is when you inhibit people will find alternatives address their needs. We should work to address peoples needs, athletes needs, and parents needs and this way you will have a more cooperative environment, a high school friendly environment and an opportunity to succeed. At this point, it may take a miracle, but if we don’t do something now, our school sports could go away one day. The crowds of 10,000 screaming fans at a high school football game could be replaced by 50 parents yelling for Johnny to show everyone what he’s got. The team will be replaced by the individual and the leadership will be replaced by self-serving. I don’t expect to have all the answers and i understand that their are benefits to club sports as I have a club myself, but i feel the bigger shame in society is losing our hometown environment, our friends, and becoming great alongside the people we grew up with, it provides better relationships a better society and a more close nit community.