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Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
By “this” I mean the recent move by the VHSL to expand practice opportunities for all sports.
Basically, due to a recent vote, the VHSL will allow individual sports to be active for, in essence, the entire year.
With the exception of a ten-day window at the start of the other seasons, and a one-week block at the start of the summer, teams will be able to practice, year-round.
So, for example, once football season ends, the team members get a ten-day hiatus at the start of the winter sports season. Then, they can get right back into lifting, playbooking and drilling under the watchful eye of the football staff.
This development screams to me, “One-sport jocks! One-sport jocks!”
That is, I suspect we will see more and more athletes migrate toward a one-sport model. If you happen to be a good basketball player, you’ll practice in the spring, rather than go out for baseball.
If you’re a soccer player, you’ll not run cross country in the fall. You’ll play autumn soccer.
I believe that this ruling acknowledges and legitimizes the one-sport jock model.
How does that translate locally?
In the case of Jefferson Forest, this ruling should be viewed favorably. By and large, Jefferson Forest has a greater prevalence of one-sport athletes. For instance, it is very rare to find a volleyball player involved in any other sports at JF. Same goes for soccer. And softball.
Even track, for the most part, draws pure runners (or vaulters).
I can only think of a handful of Forest kids who play three sports.
Meanwhile, Staunton River and Liberty are a different kettle of fish.
At those schools, the challenge is to find athletes who are focused on one sport, alone.
In fact, I can reel off the names of scores of athletes at those schools who play multiple sports.
I believe the ruling will be something of a drag on River and Liberty. Not a killer, mind you, but not a positive development either.
Another aspect of the ruling which is of concern involves quality of life.
That is, coaches already put scads of time into their sport under the current structure.
One coach told me that he calculated his hourly wage and it came out in the neighborhood of 35 cents (not much better, by the way, than that of a sports reporter).
Should it develop that the only way for a team to stay competitive is to keep increasing the amount of practice days, my suspicion is that we’ll tend to see an exodus from the coaching ranks. Obviously, that would be a terrible thing.
So, why is this being done?
I checked in with Mike McCall, of the VHSL. He sees the move as one that can help thwart the influence of forces that exist beyond the walls of the school.
“I...think it will allow coaches to have more contact with their student-athletes which I think is a good thing,” opined McCall. “I would think schools would want that interaction instead of having their students off with AAU coaches. I don’t think having students being instructed by their high school coaches is a negative.”
What McCall is referring to here is the growth of AAU-type organizations.
These groups, once fairly well confined to basketball, are now growing their tentacles into other sports, including football.
In fact, a recent New York Times article pointed out the huge growth of the “seven on seven” football circuit.
Seven-on-seven football, which is played without pads, helmets or linemen, is becoming huge in football hotbeds, such as South Florida.
These circuits operate outside of the constraints of the bodies that govern high school sports. In other words, they can pretty much do what they darn well please.
The piece showed how, in some cases, seven on seven coaches are becoming the go-to source for college recruiters.
The other thing is that VHSL is letting districts and regions decide for themselves whether moving toward a full-year model is right for them. The policy that goes into effect on August 1, of this year, allows for districts and regions to decide, for themselves, whether the model is proper for them. It it isn’t, they can adopt further restrictions. In an age when everyone railing against Big Brother, the VHSL has actually pushed some of the decision-making authority down to the local level. Good for them..
Say what you will about the VHSL (and I’ve said plenty). That body’s primary mission continues to include that our student-athletes obtain a solid education: that sports does not get in the way of the primary mission of our educational system.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing for the VHSL to get ahead of the train that is coming. In fact, I think it is quite a smart thing.