Copyright 2014 Charleston Newspapers
The State Secondary Schools Activities Commission, the group that regulates middle school and high school athletics in West Virginia, voted last week to expand by three weeks the time in which high school teams can practice during the summer.
In a move that must be approved by the state Board of Education before it can go into effect, the SSAC proposal would allow coaches to practice their teams any week during the summer other than the week of July 4.
If approved, the proposal will double the time window in which high school teams can conduct off-season practice and provide greater flexibility for multi-sport student-athletes and their parents, who often have to choose one sport over another because their sports' summer practices occur at the same time.
"It opens up the window more than if it's restricted to just three weeks, said Gary Ray, SSAC executive director. "For example, a baseball coach could take them in the middle of the summer and then the track coach could take them early. They can start sharing kids more and I think that is part of the reason to it.
"For small schools, I think it would help, Wheeling Central boys basketball coach Mel Stephens told Metronews. "With the three-week period, if you have kids who are doing multiple sports, they have to make a choice of what one they want to do during that period. How much we would use it? I don't really know. But I think it would be a good thing to eliminate packing everything into those three weeks.
Some coaches and parents have expressed opposition because of the potential for too much emphasis on athletics, but school principals have the responsibility to set expectations and parameters to make sure their school's coaches don't abuse the time.
"I do not want to coach my kids all summer, said Dave Rogers, boys basketball coach at Martinsburg High School. "But I would like the opportunity to coach them in the summer league or take them to summer camps. If some of the players would want to come in to an open gym to shoot or have some personal coaching, it would give us the opportunity to do that.
The SSAC proposal would allow for more control at the school level, where it belongs. The proposal deserves serious consideration by the state board.