High stakes in high school sports

By Scott Ragsdale

The stakes for participation in high school sports are high for player and coach alike.

Schools and school boards are not yet equipped to deal with the potential for conflict that these higher stakes present. I’ve witnessed this time and time again over the past seven years that my two girls attended Davis High School. And there is no one person or school institution to point a finger at — the youth sport economy has grown rapidly and I would expect schools would struggle to cope.

Schools — with principals, administrators and board members (whose tenure is often much shorter than the coaches’) — don’t always have the institutional memory to discern opposing views. Kids and parents are around for just four years. On balance, the system likely will favor the incumbent coach, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Good things come from dedicated year-round school/club coaches — they are one of the reasons Davis High remains competitive in sports. But managing conflict of interest is a challenge. Holding a high school coaching position brings legitimacy and authority to the coach and coach’s club.

And for players — staying with the program can mean admission or a scholarship to college. Parents are often five years into a club sport before their child reaches high school and that can mean as much as $10,000 in club and tournament fees alone — it’s an investment in money and friendships not easily given up.

And the YOLO factor — for students, the bling of a Blue and White uniform is huge. These are all factors that influence what a person is willing to do or say to stay in the game.

My hope is that the remaining Board of Education members can find a resolution of this latest incident by applying a standard that is available to all parents, players and coaches — the Athletic Handbook for Coaches 2013-14 (DHS website). If you don’t want to read all 32 pages, then skip to appendix 13 “The DSHS Coaching Pledge.”
One part of this pledge sticks out to me:

“The mission of the Davis Senior High School Athletic Department is to provide student-athletes with an opportunity to compete successfully in a high school athletic program that is an integral part of their educational experience. The experience will provide a positive learning environment with equitable participation opportunities for student-athletes to develop their athletic and leadership potential.”

This standard should make the Board of Education’s decision clearer — to keep or dismiss. It’s not a betting matter. The stakes are too high.

— Scott Ragsdale is a Davis resident.

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