Opinion: Universal No School/No Play Policy Needed

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Copyright 2014 Charleston Newspapers
Charleston Daily Mail (West Virginia)
Derek Taylor

Ask a simple question, and get a plethora of politically charged and curiously off-topic answers.

That's this week's Twitter lesson for you, boys and girls.

Capital boys basketball coach Carl Clark said something Tuesday that while I'm sure might misconstrue to be sour grapes, others - including myself - reacted to with the same sort of feeling I imagine one gets when they forget to ask a company what it's keeping in a chemical tank.

The feeling is basically one that says, "I can't believe I never thought of that before. How stupid am I?"

Clark was talking about the difficulties faced by his team from having so many games postponed by weather and water situations in the last three weeks. His response to a question regarding specific challenges was quick and concise.

"It's a real challenge. When you're competing against teams in another area and they're allowed to practice (during snow days) then you have to play them when you come back, it's tough," Clark said.

Clark was specifically referring to Huntington High School, which saw its Class AAA No. 2 Highlanders beat Capital 69-68 last week when Kanawha County Schools were still closed due to the water crisis caused by Freedom Industries.

Capital was not deprived of prep time prior to the Huntington game because of snow or poor weather, and Cabell County also uses a no school/no play policy for its high school teams. Clark's broader point is valid, though. A team from any county that operates under a no school/no play policy is at a preparatory disadvantage when it faces a team that operates without such restrictions if the teams meet during or immediately following a winter weather incident.

When this idea struck me late Wednesday morning I posed an open-ended question on Twitter: Do you think the state should move to a universal policy regarding snow days and play/practice?

In a turn of events that turned my earlier blind spot into a trend, it was basketball fans who reacted in the most rational manner. Oddly, it was coaches and a few sportswriters who reacted suspiciously, and often with more than a hint of fear and loathing.

One coach, who I've known for a decade and with whom I've maintained a positive working relationship throughout that time, wrote, "Then what would the next universal policy be about? Playing time? When to use my time-outs? God forbid someone use common sense."

A writer who I have known and worked with on All-State committees with for 17 years added, "Why change the way it is. Already too many policies."

Car tires screeched to a halt with each such response. It was inexplicable. How could people, one of whom has a vested interest in a level playing field (or court, in this instance) and the other in seeking the truth and reporting inequalities and disruptions to the status quo, not be in favor of every county operating under the same policy when it came to winter sports and in particular basketball?

It was that word: policy. Few people like new rules, but there is more to this distaste than not liking change. It's a fear of the unknown and the fear of losing something, whatever it might be, that typically leads people to rail against change of any kind, especially a rule or legal change.

They fear it even when that change might benefit them.

The experiment provided an unforeseen glimpse as to why so little changes in West Virginia from generation to generation. Some were so put off by the notion of a blanket policy administered by "The Man" that they didn't even think the question through before responding.

"The Man," in this instance, would be the state Board of Education. County boards currently control their own policies for such issues, and 33 of West Virginia's 55 counties operate under a no school/no play policy.

Some counties allow their teams to practice when school is called off, and some operate under even more convoluted sets of rules.

For instance, Harrison County teams are not allowed to play or practice on a snow day, unless school is cancelled for three consecutive days because of poor weather. Then, the teams are allowed to practice, but still not play.

In the early days of the 3-point shot in college basketball, the line's distance from the basket differed depending on the conference. The Southern Conference was the first to adopt the shot and measured its 3-point line at 22 feet in 1980. The Atlantic Coast Conference, by comparison, saw its 3-point line actually rest inside the top of the key, at 17 feet, 9 inches.

As one might imagine, this caused more confusion than enjoyment, especially when it came to inter-regional games. By 1986 the NCAA made the 3-point line a uniform 19 feet, 9 inches. The NCAA distance is now a uniform 20 feet, 9 inches.

It doesn't get said often these days, but this is one instance in which high schools could take a lesson from the NCAA, and get all its schools on the same page.

Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at [email protected] or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.


January 23, 2014




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