by Kent Sterling
Should a kid be able to attend the high school he or she wishes regardless of the reason? That’s a question the Indiana High School Athletic Association has answered with a resounding “NO!”, and it’s getting ready to be even more emphatic.
According to a Kyle Neddenriep post on indystar.com, the IHSAA will vote before May 4th on whether to implement a “past-link” prohibition for athletes transferring high schools. That means if a coach at the school to which an athlete transfers employs someone who has previously trained or coached the athlete, he or she is ineligible to compete for 365 days.
In a perfect world, transfer rules would be eliminated entirely, but I would settle for them not to be strengthened.
The rule is being considered because coaches don’t like losing athletes in whom they have invested time and effort to other schools who may or may not aggressively pursue his or her talents.
Coaches should understand they are employed to teach the kids in their charge how to play a game, keep them safe, and maybe – if the stars align correctly – impart some life lessons that will inform the behavior of the athletes for the rest of their lives. That’s it. That’s all.
Sadly, many coaches get into the business because they jones for competition. They covet victory, and anything that increases their chances to win is high on their agenda. For some, that means engaging in recruiting. For others, it means feeling shunned because they lost kids to a coach that recruits.
Public schools get pissed off at the private schools because they have no enrollment boundaries and can potentially offer scholarships to talented athletes. Private schools envy the public institutions because of the tax money and bond driven cash that can be spent lavishly on facilities.
At the nexus of the discussion should be the best interest of the athletes and their families, but as IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox explained the past-link legislation in Neddenriep’s Indy Star piece, I didn’t read a single word about how it will benefit kids:
“I think the membership likes it. The concern that is being raised by the basketball coaches is that they are growing weary of having to fight and defend for their own kids. A kid is in my program and is developing into a nice player and somebody comes in and tries to sway that kid to go to a different school for whatever purpose.
“I think what we’re trying to get people to understand here is that you just don’t go around recruiting kids. If the parents choose they want to go somewhere because the situation is better and athletics don’t have anything to do with it, we allow that to occur. But I think the basketball coaches are making a pretty clear statement that they are pretty fed up with it.”
Why should athletics have nothing to do with choosing a high school or changing high schools? There are some kids whose only chance to afford to attend college is wrapped up in how their athletic gifts are developed and showcased. Athletes invest more time on athletics than in math class, so making an informed decision on where to attend high school should absolutely involve athletic considerations.
Coaches are miffed because their fiefdom is violated. Cox said it himself, “A kid is in my program and is developing into a nice player and somebody comes in and tries to sway that kid.” For whom is that bad? Not the kid.
So the IHSAA is going to legislate based upon what is right for the coaches?
This reminds me of my summer as a camp counselor. I worked with kids and tried to make their experience great. A couple of weeks in, another counselor pulled me aside and said, “You don’t get it. We’re not here for them. They’re here for us.” He meant it to be funny, but I don’t believe Indiana high school coaches would be laughing.
Coaches need to get over themselves and stop viewing the world through their own lenses. Think about the kids. You do that, and the question of whether to tighten transfer rules for athletic reasons becomes easy.
The real question is why they exist at all.