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OFF-SEASON COACHING PROPOSAL PENALIZES HARD WORK

It bothers me that we live in a society that thrives on making rulesto protect the not so ambitious, while attempting to hold back goal-setters.

Take the recommendation made by the Executive Council of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association. It's a proposal I think violates the rights of parents and coaches who are blessed with enthusiasm and good intentions.

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The Executive Council is considering asking the Board of Control to recommend to the State Department of Education to interpret the "out-of-season practice" bylaw exactly as written.

The rule states that MPSSAA member schools and coaches shall confine practice for all students or teams to their season, and a coach may not coach his highschool team beyond the sport's season.

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After receiving complaintsin recent years, the MPSSAA offered an official interpretation of the rule, and it currently says, "Any individual, group or team gathering that has assembled for the purpose of instruction and is under thedirection of any member of the school coaching staff would constitute a violation."

It further adds these restrictions: "a. the team may not use a name connected with the school; b. the team may not use school uniforms or equipment; c. no more than half of the team rostermay be composed of returning varsity and junior varsity players fromthe school team; d. the team is participating in an activity sponsored by an agency outside of the school system."

The MPSSAA feels that some coaches have bent the rules and its fall newsletter, Scout, said, "Many coaches and athletic directors know of these situations yet few were willing to speak against their colleagues.

"Now, some of the state's most successful coaches are saying, 'Enough is enough!'These are not sour-grapes people, but rather coaches who have won multiple state championships in their sports."

The newsletter went on to say that the coaches want the bylaw to be strictly enforced as written and "not watered down by the MPSSAA-suggested interpretations."

In other words, NO coaching outside your school sports season.

If this ridiculous proposal fueled by envious coaches who don't want to work as hard as some others goes through, then the next recommendation ought to be that MPSSAA change its name to the "Little NCAA."

I thought people had a right to spend their time they way they seefit. I also thought high school coaches who are worth their salt arein the business to help students.

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There is no greater satisfaction and reward for a coach then to have an athlete come back to say thanks for what the coach did for him. All the money in the world can't beat that feeling.

What it comes down to is do we want to help youngsters and encourage the coaches who go the extra mile to do so, or do we want to help youngsters only up to a point by bogging them downwith restrictions?

The state needs to realize that young athletesforge positive relationships out of respect with certain coaches whobecome role models. Now what's more American or healthy than that?

This recommendation would limit the amount of time a coach could spend with his athletes and would create an ugly atmosphere. We would reduce our high school coaches to walking a tightrope just as the high-profile NCAA coaches do.

If the state thinks it has problems now with coaches' bending rules, just wait and see what happens if they pass this recommendation. Coaches will be afraid to say "good morning"to their athletes for fear of instructing them on what kind of day it is.

Do we want to get to the point where coaches have to sneak around to help students while living in fear of a violation?

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No question the pompous NCAA that governs college sports is swamped with investigation on top of investigation, hearings on hearings. Is that what the MPSSAA wants?

The MPSSAA phones might ring off the hook with petty complaints such as, "I saw Coach So and So showing Johnny howto improve his jump shot on the kid's backyard hoop."

And if thisrule flies, then do we also eliminate athletic classes for baseball,lacrosse and basketball, etc. that some schools have? Does the physical education teacher tape his mouth and be careful not to instruct aplayer he might have in class?

For once parents ought to have a say when the MPSSAA sets rules that do more to hinder students than help them.

I'm convinced this whole thing came about out of jealousyfor the likes of Bernie Walter, Chuck Markiewicz, a few eager soccercoaches and those coaching Amateur Athletic Union basketball, such as Bruce Springer of Broadneck and Joe Gillespie of Severna Park, and other summer hoop coaches.

Walter led his Arundel Wildcats to an unprecedented fifth state championship in baseball last spring and that came on the heels of his summer team, Mayo Post No. 226, winning the national American Legion championship.

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During the summer, Walterhas a number of his players, who play for his Mayo team, within the rules, but he also has players from Old Mill who profit from the experience.

A handful of other county high school baseball coaches runsummer teams as well, although none are head coaches at their schools.

Now if these guys want to give up their summer to coach, while other coaches lounge on the beach at Ocean City, they should have a right to do that.

And if the parents, whose opinions don't seem to count enough with the MPSSAA, want their youngster to spend the summer with a high school coach they respect and trust, what is wrong withthat?

Sure, Walter plays 80 games if he can, which gives his players an edge during the high school season, but what's to stop other coaches from doing likewise? I'll tell you what stops them. They don'twant to work as hard and really aren't as dedicated.

What's wrongwith an athlete trying to better himself by playing for a professional? Are we sending a message to the border-line kid that we don't want him to get too good because we want just the physically gifted to be the stars and scholarship winners?

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North County football coach Chuck Markiewicz started a wonderful league this past summer, the AnneArundel County Seven-man Passing League. He didn't coach his entry in the league, but in the future any suggestions he makes to youth football coaches Warren Rice and Danny Mangum, who ran his team, could constitute a violation.

God forbid Markiewicz or any other local high school football coach offering help to one of his athletes playingin the league. Under the rule, if a coach sees a player doing something fundamentally wrong, he must turn his back to it and not offer any coaching tips that would make the athlete better.

Soon the MPSSAA will tell coaches they can't watch their athletes compete in the off-season because they might get an edge on the coaches who would rather be playing golf.

Basketball and soccer have developed into practically year-round programs in this age of specialization. Springer, who is head girls coach at Broadneck, and Gillespie, who is an assistant to Kevin McGrath at Severna Park, run an AAU team with a host of girls from both schools.

The result has been improved quality in both programs. Broadneck has won two state championships and Severna Park has just missed. Now what is wrong with that?

I've said many times that the soccer nuts play too much, to the point where the kids lack diversification, and it has become the ruination of the three-sport athlete. But if that's what the parents want their kids to do, they should have the right to do it.

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And who can argue that the quality of girls basketball and girls soccer, and in some cases the boys as well, hasn't vastly improved?

But we constantly find ways to lower the quality whenever it seems to rise. Such rules as the one being proposed sends a message to students that life is just doing the minimum, no more. Punch that time clock right at 5 p.m. and don't allowthe hard worker to get an edge over the lazy guy.

An open meetingis set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Greenbelt Marriott, but only coaches and administrators will be allowed to speak on the issue.

If the recommendation flies, June 1 has been discussed as the date for implementation.

I say the MPSSAA needs to hear from the parents before making a decision, because we have a right to decide how much quality time our kids can spend with their high school coach.

Most of us appreciate the high school coach who wants to help his kids become better players and people.



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