Those who coach out of season, giving their spare time to help kids grow athletically and emotionally, can let out a sigh of relief.
The rule on out-of-season coaching by high school coaches will stand as is, which means the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association will continue its interpretation of the rule, allowing coaches to coach out of season within certain guidelines.
A hearing on the controversial rule took place Saturday at the Greenbelt Marriot. Nearly 20 people, including parents and school personnel, showed up for the 11 a.m. meeting to testify on a proposal thatwould virtually eliminate out-of-season coaching.
"The testimony was overwhelmingly in favor of not changing the rule and leaving it the way it is," said Ned Sparks, executive secretary of the MPSSAA.
The meat of the rule on out-of-season practice goes like this: (1) MPSSAA member schools and coaches of member schools shall confine practice for all students or teams to the seasonal limitations as definedin Regulation .03.
According to the MPSSAA, several coaches recently demanded that the rule be interpreted exactly as it is written, which would mean no out-of-season coaching.
The opposition wanted the MPSSAA's interpretation of the rule that allows out-of-season coaching to stand. The interpretation was written, in the words of Sparks, "to clarify certain situations and to accommodate what was perceived as legitimate situations."
The amendment, .04G (1) interpretation, says, "Any individual, group or team gathering that has assembled for the purpose of instruction and is under the direction of any member of the school coaching staff would constitute a violation."
Here's the key to the interpretation: .04G(2) c. No more than half of the team roster may be composed of returning varsity and junior varsityplayers from the school team. d. The team is participating in an activity sponsored by an agency outside of the school system.
It was the feeling of some coaches and athletic directors that a few coacheswere circumventing the rule and gaining an unfair advantage.
Theywanted the rule strictly enforced as originally written, with no interpretations. That, of course, would prevent all coaches from instructing their student athletes outside of the sport season.
In other words, people like Arundel baseball coach Bernie Walter, boys basketball coaches John Brady (Annapolis), Gerald Moore (Arundel) and Jack Jordan (South River), girls basketball coaches Bruce Springer (Broadneck) and Joe Gillespie (Severna Park), volleyball coach Tim Dunbar (Severna Park) and football coaches who choose to assist a team in the Anne Arundel County Summer Passing League, as well as the lacrosse coaches in the summer Hero's League, would have to give it up.
In effect, the state would be telling those people what not to do with their spare time, even in the summer months, when they are not officiallyemployed by the schools.
Walter would not have been able to run his Mayo American Legion team if any Arundel players were on it. Bradyand Jordan would have had to give up coaching their younger players in the Annapolis Outdoor Summer Basketball League, while Springer, Moore and Gillespie would have had to say goodbye to their Amateur Athletic Union basketball teams.
To have strictly enforced the rule would have been unfair to the kids who are fortunate enough to play under the wings of a high school coach who also coaches in recreation and club leagues.
As far as I'm concerned, the coaches who coach outof season don't gain an unfair advantage. Rather, their kids gain fair advantages. They are given the opportunity to hone their skills and become better athletes under professional high school coaches.
And I can say without reservation that those who coach out of season are so dedicated to helping kids that they spend just as much time trying to improve the skills of kids from other schools as those from their own.
The Mayo Legion team is a prime example. Just look at thesuccess of the Old Mill baseball team over the last few years. It just so happens that Old Mill is Arundel's arch-rival in baseball and Coach Walter has contributed to making the enemy better.
The benefits to the kids are more than just wins, as the Waves AAU girls basketball team of Springer, Gillespie and President Tom Conroy can attest.Eighteen of their girls, including eight from Anne Arundel County, have received full athletic scholarships since 1989.
Of the 18 to land full rides to college, only four are from Broadneck. What that says is that Springer is helping more than just his own girls.
On another matter of lesser consequence, Sparks said the new coin flip in lieu of the traditional jump ball to start high school basketball games has not caused any controversy or prompted any complaining phone calls or letters to his office.
Finally, Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks has made a few age cutoff changes to become effective Jan. 1.
Jan. 1 will continue as the eligibility date for all sports except baseball, girls county select softball and girls county softball. Baseball's new cutoff date is Aug. 1, in line with national organizations and the county 16-and-under and 18-and-under leagues.
Afootnote on the new baseball date is that children beginning play oncounty-sponsored teams will be able to participate if they have reached age 8 prior to April 1 of the season in which they play.
Girlsselect softball will use Sept. 1, while the girls county leagues will use April 1.