To Compete With Club Sports, High Schools Give Up On Promoting Multi-Sport Participation – Forbes

The Arizona Interscholastic Association, which oversees high school sports in the state, decided the best way to handle the loss of control its coaches have when their players participate in club sports is to make the high school program be like club sports.

The AIA’s legislative council voted overwhelmingly to approve a measure that would essentially allow year-round coaching and practices by sport, rather than, say, football season ending when football is over, basketball season ending with basketball is over, and softball season ending when softball is over. Though it’s safe to say — and it was said in the discussion of this vote — that some schools turned away from that model a while ago. From the Arizona Republic newspaper:

The measure, which passed [March 3] by a vote of 39-5 and goes into effect July 1, does not put limitations on out-of-season practices with the exception of helmets and shoulder pads not being allowed during football workouts. …

Marcus Williams, athletic director for the Chandler Unified School District, said he doesn’t believe the measure will have any dramatic effect on the high school sports landscape because so many schools already have out-of-season programs, whether it’s fall baseball, open gym for basketball or clinics run by coaches.

“For larger schools, it’s not really changing anything,” Williams said. “We’re just legalizing what has been going on.”

Arizona isn’t the first state to go this route — the Virginia High School League did the same in 2011, and since then various state high school associations have loosened their rules so that coaches can at least work with their teams in the offseason, or at least a proscribed number of team members at one time. Here the latest roundup I can find of state high school association rules on out-of-season practices; it was put together by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association as it mulls making a similar change to Arizona’s.

While Arizona’s rule codifies what’s already been happening at larger schools (one worry from opponents is whether small-school programs will suffer if coaches hold year-round practices, because those schools need multi-sport athletes just to fill out their teams), the biggest motivator for the change is competition between school and travel sports. From the Arizona Republic:

One of the reasons behind the measure … is to try to woo kids away from club sports out-of-season by giving them an opportunity to practice with their high school coach. …

[Scottsdale Prep Athletic Director Duane] Edinger, although he was against the proposal, appreciated that aspect, saying, “I’d rather have my student practicing with my coach instead of a club coach.” He also said that it helps even the playing field for rural schools that don’t have club programs nearby because they can now have their kids practice throughout the school year.

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