Pro­posal could limit sum­mer com­pe­ti­tion

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - HENRY AP­PLE

Of the nine pro­pos­als that the state’s schools will vote on next week dur­ing the Arkansas Ac­tiv­i­ties As­so­ci­a­tion’s an­nual meet­ing of the gov­ern­ing body, Pro­posal No. 6 has prob­a­bly been gar­ner­ing the most at­ten­tion this sum­mer.

The pro­posal would put lim­its on com­pe­ti­tion days dur­ing the sum­mer break. Each sport would be limited to eight com­pe­ti­tion days, and ath­letes who play mul­ti­ple sports would also be limited to eight com­pe­ti­tion days per sport dur­ing that time.

The AAA will con­sider this pro­posal and a hand­ful of oth­ers on Mon­day in Lit­tle Rock.

Pro­posal No. 6 was rec­om­mended by a com­mit­tee of foot­ball coaches from dif­fer­ent clas­si­fi­ca­tions across the state, in­clud­ing Spring­dale Har-Ber coach Chris Wood. It was then placed on a spring sur­vey, where it re­ceived 78 per­cent ap­proval

from school ad­min­is­tra­tors and earned a spot as a pro­posal in Mon­day’s meet­ing.

“Some­times it’s not only what you’re do­ing within the state, but what is go­ing on at a na­tional level,” Wood said. “What’s the di­rec­tion of ath­letic sports and what are other states do­ing? How are they man­ag­ing safety and eq­uity? You look at those de­tails, and you look and see where we are in Arkansas. We’re blessed with how we are able to be with our stu­dent-ath­letes.

“In that, you can’t have it out of con­trol, where you’re go­ing 100 miles per hour all the time. It started from look­ing at the na­tional pulse of sum­mer ac­tiv­ity with stu­dent-ath­letes and what we are do­ing as a state, and how can we be proac­tive and con­tinue to man­age what is go­ing on and not have any­thing come down from a na­tional level on reg­u­la­tions and re­stric­tions.”

The pro­posal would limit coaches to eight com­pet­i­tive days — con­sist­ing of any com­bi­na­tion of team drills, 7-on-7 pass­ing events and things of the like — dur­ing the sum­mer for a var­sity team, eight more for a ju­nior var­sity team and, in the case of larger schools, eight com­pet­i­tive days for sopho­more teams. If a player falls be­tween var­sity and sub-var­sity, the eight days could be split up for each team.

It would also be ben­e­fi­cial for those who play mul­ti­ple sports. Those ath­letes would have eight com­pet­i­tive days in each sport.

“Look at it this way,” AAA as­so­ciate ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Steve Roberts said. “When you fig­ure in the two-week dead pe­riod, there are ba­si­cally three weeks be­fore the dead pe­riod and three weeks af­ter the dead pe­riod be­fore foot­ball be­gins pre­sea­son work­outs. That’s room for more than one com­pet­i­tive day per week per sport.

“What the pro­posal does is level the play­ing field some be­tween those who can spend a lot of time and money go­ing to team camps and such, and those who can’t. But if you look at what ev­ery state does around us, we have far fewer lim­i­ta­tions than they do and that’s a good thing.”

Wood said he has been fully sup­port­ive of the pro­posal from the out­set, but that isn’t the case with some of his col­leagues. The Arkansas Foot­ball Coaches As­so­ci­a­tion has shown strong op­po­si­tion against the mea­sure on so­cial me­dia and has used its Twit­ter ac­count in at­tempts to con­vince fel­low foot­ball and bas­ket­ball coaches to talk their school ad­min­is­tra­tors to vote against it.

Roberts, who also met with the com­mit­tee of foot­ball coaches that came up with the pro­posal, said he can see both sides of the is­sue. Wood also sees his col­leagues’ pur­pose for be­ing against the pro­posal.

“It’s good to see their pas­sion and the de­sire for their kids,” Wood said. “They don’t want the op­por­tu­nity taken away of be­ing with their kids, work with their kids and pro­vide for their kids. That’s where it gets tricky.

“Ev­ery­body has a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on the sum­mer and how to do it. I can’t speak for them, and it’s not fair for me to do that. They don’t want to lose that op­por­tu­nity, and I don’t think that will hap­pen.”

As a com­par­i­son, high school coaches in Texas are pro­hib­ited from any spe­cific group­ing of high school ath­letes dur­ing the sum­mer months for the pur­pose of con­di­tion­ing and/or or­ga­nized in­struc­tion. Ok­la­homa schools are limited to one team camp that must be con­cluded on or be­fore July 15, while Mis­souri schools are limited to 20 days of con­tact — de­fined as any date on which any coach­ing or in­struc­tion in skills and tech­nique of any sport takes place — per sport dur­ing the sum­mer.

While the pro­posal may limit com­pe­ti­tion days be­tween schools dur­ing the sum­mer, it places no limit on the amount of days or the time per day coaches can con­duct prac­tice with their team dur­ing that time, with the ex­cep­tion of the cur­rent two-week dead pe­riod.

“It will have very lit­tle ef­fect on my kids,” Ben­ton- ville High girls bas­ket­ball coach Tom Halb­maier said. “Right now, we do close to six or seven days. The re­main­ing days, we come in and do skill work and stuff of that na­ture.

“For coaches that have been in this for a long time, they un­der­stand that kids have to be kids. I think it cre­ates a break for them be­cause a lot of these play­ers who want to play on the next level are al­ready play­ing on week­ends and work­ing on their game. I sup­port it 100 per­cent and think it’s long over­due. It’s right for the kids.”

Wood said that even if the pro­posal doesn’t pass, he will carry out the pro­posal’s pur­pose next sum­mer dur­ing Har-Ber’s work­out sched­ule. He said the Wild­cats had nine com­pet­i­tive days this sum­mer, and he plans on cut­ting that down while pos­si­bly adding days to his ju­nior var­sity team, which only had two days.

An­other rea­son for the lim­its, ac­cord­ing to Wood, is for his as­sis­tant coaches. None of them are be­ing paid for their ser­vices in June and don’t have the con­tract he has.

“We not only want kids to be kids, but let as­sis­tant coaches have some time away,” Wood said. “Not ev­ery coach is on a 12-month con­tract. A lot of times in June, they’re not on con­tract and vol­un­teer­ing their time. They’ll do that be­cause they’re ser­vants to the pro­gram.

“But we’ve had fam­i­lies who moved in from an­other ar­eas with reg­u­la­tions, and they say ‘is there ever a break around here?’ These kids are go­ing non-stop. We had nine var­sity com­pe­ti­tion days, so we have to re­move one, but an­other pro­gram had only two or three. That will pro­vide some eq­uity and op­por­tu­nity within our state and give ev­ery kid the same op­por­tu­nity.”

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