Adults aside, games still fun

On High Schools

September 02, 2005|By MILTON KENT

AYEAR AGO, when this column began, the principal concern expressed was whether the kids who play these games were having enough fun to make practicing in the pea-soup humidity of the summer and the cold of the winter worthwhile.

The verdict appears to be yes, and not just for the handful of teams that won state or private school championships. The interscholastic athletic experience can be a blast for kids, provided the adults around them get out of the way long enough to let them enjoy it.

Take the Mervo football team, for instance. The Mustangs finally get to play this year on their home field in an essentially brand new stadium that has sat unused for more than four years because the city squabbled with a contractor over payment. The field could have been open years ago had the city not filed appeals over a judgment won in court by the contractor.

There are plenty of other examples, but you get the idea. Between their unrealistic demands and expectations, not to mention their out-of-control behavior as spectators, so-called grown-ups can make a mockery of high school sports.

And then there are the often Byzantine rules that supposedly shield kids, but often serve as swords through their competition.

Just recently, news arrived that games between public and private schools may not be scheduled this coming spring and beyond if the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association doesn't sanction games.

Ned Sparks, the longtime executive secretary of the MPSSAA, told The Sun's Lem Satterfield that if the state's private schools don't accept new competition standards adopted by the Maryland State Board of Education in July, he will not approve games between private and public schools.

While any games scheduled before July 19 would be covered, meaning the fall and a good part of the winter schedules would be OK, the spring competitions would be affected, meaning the top baseball, softball and lacrosse teams from around the area, even within the same counties, might not be able to play each other.

There are some good things to come out of the standards that the private schools would do well to adopt. An age restriction of 13 to 19 as well as a four-year eligibility limit aren't necessarily bad things, provided there is compassion attached with the rules.

And that's where Sparks comes in. This space criticized the often ham-handed, iron-fisted approach he governed with. For instance, after Howard County officials had reached agreement on an eligibility case involving Glenelg and a football player who was living outside the jurisdiction but still playing for the school, Sparks stepped in and told the parties that they hadn't followed protocol.

This seems no different. Sparks, operating under a proposal to settle a lawsuit filed by a coach of a team of wrestlers who are home-schooled, is figuratively placing a gun at the heads of the private schools and telling them to come to grips with the new standards and to do it soon or they won't be able to play with the public schools come spring.

Since the standards were just adopted in July, would it be such a harm for the state's schools, public and private, to be able to play each other for the entire year, fall, winter and spring, giving all the parties a full year to study the effects and reach an agreement? If they couldn't do so in a year, then Sparks would be absolutely justified in keeping the sides apart in 2006-07.

For the coming year, though, let's look forward to miracle finishes, relatively few injuries, and above all, fun. After all, isn't that what it's all about?

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