To play or not to play: That was the question for several young women who participated in the Washington Area Girls Soccer Tournament Monday.

Enticed by the prospect of playing before hundreds of collegescouts in what is billed as the nation's largest and most prestigious tournament, the girls missed school and practice that day, violating a Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association rule designed to prevent conflicts between high school and outside participation.


Acting county Physical Education Coordinator Paul Rusko supports the rule, saying it was concocted to preserve the integrity of high school programs -- i.e., to prevent a kid, who might just be the high school team's best player, from showing up only for games. That wouldput one athlete above his high school teammates.

I see Rusko's point.


Parents of club soccer players and proponents of club soccer call the rule restrictive. They see the rule as blocking the girls' attempts to further themselves.

Their point, also, is well taken.

Each side says it's in favor of helping the kids, but, as Chesapeake coach Lin Sullivan says, "If everyone is really interested in the girls, then somebody's going to have to start cutting somebody some slack here.

"I don't like the idea that a bunch of people who are supposed to care about kids would have such conflicting policies and rules," said Sullivan. "But the rule is there, they (the girls) knew itand they made a choice -- although it was a very difficult choice."

So now, the choice is with the county, collectively.

County soccer is enjoying more success than ever, rivaling neighbor Howard County, a longtime power in the sport. With that in mind, the people in charge have got to achieve a more harmonic working relationship; otherwise, I smell a powder keg brewing.

Having reported on soccer games on both the club and high school level, I find that the dissension is rarely among the kids involved but more among the adults.

Problem is, the kids don't make the rules: They just have to play by them.