Scholarships Not The Schools' Job

Club Soccer Conflict Raises Education Issue

October 20, 1991|By Pat O'Malley

The parents of a lot of student-athletes don't understand something very important, and that is public schools and their coaches are not in the business of producing scholarships.

The controversy involving girls from several schools who took off Monday to play in a Washington Area Girls Soccer Tournament in Virginia brings this to light.

Outside play is OK as long as it does not conflict with school play. Some of the girls' schools did not schedule practice Monday whileothers did, and that's where things have gotten crazy.

The one thing, though, that the coaches, such as Joyce Stefancik of Severna Park who called off her practice, couldn't call off was school. They have no control over that.

So what is an excused absence, and should that be the parents' responsibility or the school's? How far do we goin terms of athletics?

With the cost of a college education so high these days, it's understandable that many parents will go to greatrisks with their children to help land an athletic scholarship, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. And parents need to realize that it is neither the coach's nor the school's responsibility to secure scholarships.

That's the parents' responsibility, and how far they go is up to them. Lucky is the student-athlete who plays for a coach who works beyond the call of duty to help his athletes get scholarships.

It is not the responsibility nor duty of the schools and coaches to see that athletes get scholarships. Basically, their duty is toeducate.

Playing high school sports is a privilege. Attending high school is a responsibility. Now where do we draw the line on the relationship of the two?

"If they told me they would throw my daughter out of school, she still would have gone to the WAGS tournament," said one mother who obviously feels very strongly about the WAGS program.

The WAGS program is an outstanding program and opportunity for girls, but when it gets down to rules that relate to being absent from school, then, maybe something is wrong.

Tom Ehart, coach of the Severna Park Green Hornets-sponsored Alliance club involved in all of this mess, suggests that some of the rules be changed in the best interests of the girls. He might be right, but under the current rules, either something has been violated or at least cleverly circumvented.

Ehart's club team was a surprise winner of the WAGS tournamentin Virginia on Columbus Day Monday. It was played that day with 20 teams from all across the country because it was a holiday in Virginiaand schools were closed.

Schools were not closed in Anne Arundel County, and Ehart's team is from the county. The fact that the countygirls played, taking off school to do so, has opened up all sorts ofinvestigations by the county and state. Possible suspensions and forfeits have been discussed along with truancy violations.

"If I could give back the championship to get the girls out of this ugly mess,I would do it," said Ehart.

Ehart, an assistant coach at St. Mary's, is an ambitious young coach whose motives are to give the girls valuable exposure for college opportunities. The 21-year-old coach hasrun this club team for two years and apparently assembled a powerhouse that some are calling the best girls club team to ever come out ofthis county.

What is a shame is that he and his girls haven't been able to savor their immense accomplishment up to this point.

"The whole thing has gotten ugly, and it really bothers me," said Ehart."Club soccer is probably taken more seriously than high school soccer, and in fact, if my players had their choice between high school and club soccer, they would probably take club soccer.

"I elected toforfeit the game Monday, but with support of the parents, kids and the county coaches, they told me to ahead and play it."

Ehart believes they felt that way because of the exposure in the WAGS program.

"I have more college scouts at one of my club games than there is in high school all year long," said Ehart. "It's more competitive thanhigh school and (offers) greater opportunity than high school.

"I'm not saying that high school is not important. Each is good for itsown reasons, and I'm out to coach for the good of the girls, help them improve and support them anyway I can."

I believe the guy and consider his motives admirable, but at the same time, it must be said that rules are rules, and rules have been broken or circumvented.

"If anything, why don't they just change these rules and make it convenient for both?" Ehart asked.

Maybe they should, but the problem is they haven't. Changing the rules to better accommodate the girls could happen, but was this the way to go about it?

"I think the principals and (Paul) Rusko (county coordinator of physical education) and all the rest of them on that (investigating) committee are doing nothing but hurting the girls," Ehart added. "If they want to help, why don't they help the state change these rules?"

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