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The State Journal- Register (Springfield, IL)
The Illinois High School Association is an easy target. It is difficult for me to watch quietly as people attack this organization.
The people attacking the IHSA get upset over one event, one decision or one action and don't recognize all of the good the IHSA does for students and athletes in the state of Illinois.
The IHSA administers to more than 800 public and private schools. They range in enrollment from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Rockford with 11 students, to Morton in Berwyn-Cicero with 8,327 students.
The IHSA is responsible for conducting sports and activities for tens of thousands of students and athletes. That includes 27 sports, 11 activities and eight athletes-with-disabilities sports.
I have learned that some rules we would like to see for tennis cannot happen because of the effect it would have on other sports. The IHSA has to enforce rules that cover all of these sports and activities.
The organization has been able to run all of these sports and activities without charging the member schools. The revenue-producing sports that many people focus on bring in most of its income. It uses revenue from contracts with sporting goods companies, apparel stores, photographers and others to help finance all of the sports and activities.
A good example would be my sport of tennis. Tennis brings in no income for the IHSA, but the cost for boys' and girls' tennis last year exceeded $40,000.
The IHSA goes beyond just administering state tournaments for these sports and activities. It offers academic awards for schools and athletes. It offers team academic awards, individual scholastic recognition awards and academic all-state teams. It offers sportsmanship awards to schools and individuals and honors officials and coaches for all sports.
The IHSA also provides rules meetings and workshops for coaches, administrators and officials.
The IHSA has been ahead of the nation in educating member schools about performance-enhancing drugs, concussions, nutrition and dangers of certain weather conditions. It is working hard to add programs for athletes with disabilities.
It is easy to disagree with an IHSA decision and then to attack the organization. Yet decisions are not made by one person. The IHSA has a board of directors made up of 11 principals elected from around the state. Bylaws have to be changed by a legislative commission made up of 35 principals and athletic directors from throughout Illinois before being voted on by every school.
Each sport and activity has an advisory committee made up of coaches, athletic directors and administrators who make proposals to the IHSA board.
I also have watched as people attacked the salaries of IHSA administrators and employees. There are thousands of classroom teachers who are paid more than the group of assistant executive directors with all of their responsibilities. Many individual school superintendents have higher salaries than the executive director of the Illinois High School Association. I do not believe they are overpaid for their work.
Personally, I would tell you that the people I have met at the IHSA are outstanding. They are patient and helpful. They work very hard to help the students and athletes in Illinois, and to help the schools, coaches and officials.
I would ask that anyone who wants to attack the IHSA take a moment to look at all of the great things it does for the students and athletes in our state.
Greg Cohen is president of the Illinois High School Tennis Coaches Association. He coaches boys' varsity tennis at Warren Township High School and lives in Gurnee.
July 17, 2014