City schools come up short in playoffs Lack of programs blamed for record

June 15, 1993|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

Coaches of city public school sports cited deficiencies in the city's athletic programs for a generally poor performance during its first year in the state association.

All but the football and boys' soccer programs -- which will follow this fall -- joined the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association last September, with city teams combining for a 21-39 playoffs record, including 18-15 in boys and girls basketball.

All but seven of the winter victories came from 4A girls runner-up Western (3-1) and boys state champs Dunbar (4-0 in 1A) and Southern (4-0 in 3A). Poly and Douglass were forced to forfeit victories upon discovering the use of ineligible players.

City playoff teams went 0-5 in softball and lacrosse, 0-2 in girls soccer, 2-6 in volleyball and 1-6 in baseball -- an overall 3-24 record with the three victories coming in intra-city contests.

"We [city teams] haven't done well as far as wins-to-losses and that concerns me," said Dunbar basketball coach Pete Pompey, who still opposes the move to join the MPSSAA.

"I don't know if our kids can spend the time and money going to camps like the county kids do. We're dealing with a lot more poverty in the city and I think that makes a difference."

Mervo track coach Freddie Hendricks, whose program is fed by Ed Waters' track club, said, "The amount of equipment the city has for high schools sports is menial compared to what's needed to compete at state-level, city-wide."

Still, Hendricks and others are optimistic about the future.

"We had a meeting of all the city wrestling coaches and we see nothing but benefits from this," said Walbrook's Wavie Gibson, The Sun's 1992-93 City Wrestling Coach of the Year. "We fell short a little bit, partly because of money, partly from lack of interest. But it's just a matter of getting the word out, getting used to the point system and gearing up."

"I think the first time out of the box, they [city schools] got a chance to see what's out there," said Ned Sparks, executive director of the MPSSAA. "They have some great athletes and a lot of dedication from the athletic directors and coaches. It's not going to take them long to figure out what's needed and to become a force throughout the state."

"What's needed," coaches say, are better recreation facilities, in addition to leagues for fast pitch softball, volleyball and soccer to keep athletes with the financial means from seeking instruction in county programs.

Winter league recreation volleyball is geared primarily to adults, and clinics for boys and girls soccer and co-ed baseball -- because of limited field space -- are only recent additions.

"Most kids come into my program with little or no volleyball experience," said Western volleyball coach Shirley Williams, who encouraged two All-City players -- Kim Osborne (Western) and Janette Jordan (City) -- to join club teams in Perry Hall.

Leon Howard, sports and athletics administrator with the city's recreation department, said enrollment has dropped dramatically for slo-pitch softball (11 leagues) and city-wide baseball (nine leagues), which has been offered to middle and junior high school age youth for more than two decades.

Southern softball coach Jack Nehsman, whose Bulldogs were undefeated, 3A-1A division champs and City-Wide runners-up to Western, says its time for fast pitch to come to the city.

"My kids are always asking me what they can do to improve their level of play. Most don't have transportation or the money for the trips to Anne Arundel County or Perry Hall," said Nehsman. "We need some help from the Bureau of Recreation."

Southern basketball coach Meredith Smith and Patterson athletic director Roger Wrenn say programs not associated with the recreation department have trouble gaining sponsorship.

"A tremendous amount of energy is put into sponsoring basketball programs by the private sector -- they're easy to sponsor," said Smith. "But if city kids want to develop a potential in soccer or tennis, it's difficult to get that before high school."

Forest Park athletic director Obie Barnes said the middle school lacrosse programs -- which feed his and other city schools -- get financial backing from the Abell Foundation. But Wrenn said baseball programs, in abundance "about 15 years ago," have begun to "dry up" from lack of sponsorship.

"Businesses were willing to step in, and there were interested adults," Wrenn said. "But now some programs, like the Salvation Army and Harbor Federal, are shining examples of successfully battling to stay alive."

Wrenn said the committed athletes flock to programs outside of the city, such as The Baltimore Metro League, which helped Patterson's John Sauer, an All-Metro outfielder recently drafted by the Chicago Cubs.

Williams said the city abolished junior varsity softball at the end of the 1982 season, according to records retained by Western athletic director Eva Scott.

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