An 'A' for coaches They deserve credit for imparting strong message to prep athletes.

November 20, 1996

ATHLETIC COACHES play a pivotal role in Howard County's new policy that toughens academic requirements for students participating in extracurricular activities. Some coaches earlier this year disagreed with the policy that prevents children from playing sports or engaging in other activities if they fail to maintain a 2.0 average or fail a course. But, it seems, dissent did not stop most of these leaders from helping their student-athletes meet the new standard.

Early reports indicate that only a handful of student-athletes failed to clear the new eligibility threshold, the toughest in the Baltimore metropolitan region. If final reports reach the same conclusion, the students and their parents deserve credit for taking this policy seriously. But coaches also merit praise for stressing the necessity of passing every course.

Part of these coaches' motivation is admittedly self-serving; they don't want to lose any athletes. But plenty of coaches also care about the future of their players beyond the brief high school athletic careers. Only a tiny fraction of these student-athletes will play collegiate sports. Coaches realize this, and have gotten the point across to their players.

"The coaches and the school made it very clear what was coming," said Stefanie Bassett, a 16-year-old junior who plays basketball at Wilde Lake High, to a Sun reporter. "They told us that we had to make the grade to be able to play, and if you weren't listening, it was your own fault."

Fortunately, many students are listening. William Gray got the message when he was ineligible for junior varsity basketball at Hammond High last year. This year, he is carrying a 3.57 average. Some coaches have study halls to help students with classwork.

The new guidelines aim to improve the already impressive academic performance of student-athletes overall. A benefit might be to encourage children in extracurricular endeavors to take every class seriously. Schools officials believe this will reduce disciplinary problems. Students participating in winter sports are the first to confront the new rules. Some will maintain that the new guidelines are too tough, but thanks to the efforts TC of coaches caught in the middle, the policy seems to be achieving the desired result.

Pub Date: 11/20/96

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