Oct 19, 2011
H.S. Coaches In Virginia Can Work With Players Almost Year-Round

Lee sophomore basketball player Amber Bryson picked up a ball on the low block and laid it into the basket, then switched to the left side to do the same thing. Back and forth she bounced, to see how many baskets she could make in 60 seconds, as Lancers Coach Harold Jackson offered pointers.

It was a low-key, skills-driven workout in the Springfield school’s auxiliary gym in late September, an unremarkable session except for one reason — any year prior it would have been a clear violation of Virginia High School League rules.

No longer. Virginia’s softened out-of-season practice rule, long discussed but not adopted until last winter, has arrived this school year, allowing high school coaches to work with their athletes virtually year-round, except for dead periods at the start of the fall, winter and spring sports seasons.

Each jurisdiction can adopt stricter guidelines than what the state allows, which is what the Virginia AAA Northern Region has done. Even so, the rule is a boon to high school coaches who have long wondered why they are allowed to instruct their players during a season but not before or after one, akin to a math teacher being barred from tutoring in July.

The new rule is designed to help all high school sports programs, but it might be of particular benefit to struggling ones like Lee’s. The Lancers went 1-19 last season, featured a rotation of mostly freshmen and sophomores, went winless on the junior varsity, had no ninth-grade team and have fewer year-round basketball players than many of the schools they compete against.

In other words, the Lancers need the extra work. Only four girls showed up to that initial out-of-season workout, but that number doubled for the second one.

By the time tryouts roll around, Lee and other teams throughout Virginia will be further along than they usually are. The same goes for squads in just about every sport.

“Last year we didn’t get the chance to do this, and it showed, said Bryson, the only varsity player from last season at that first workout. I think it’s going to help us a lot.”

“We can focus on everything that we needed to work on last season and put it all into here so we have that and more for the season, sophomore Cassie Clayton said.

The out-of-season practices are designed to improve individual skills and hone fundamentals and, really, to meet the greater demands of students and parents, who now might be less inclined to seek outside help from a private trainer or other resource. For years now, sports have been sports, not seasons, for many participants.

And that’s what has bugged area coaches: not being able to continue to work with the players that they have full access to for a few months of the year while their sport is in season.

Here’s the argument that Langley boys’ basketball Coach Travis Hess used to make:

To become a head coach, you have to go through a panel interview, then interview with the principal and [athletic director], give a writing sample when you apply, a resume, and then to give you the job you have to get clearances, background check. They say you are the person, after all this work, that we feel is best for our basketball program. You can work with these young men from November to February. After that, anybody can coach them. We don’t care who it is, as long as it’s not you.”

And now?

“We’re starting to get to the point where we can have more access to kids, Hess said. If we’re the ones the schools view as the so-called experts, then we should be the ones working with kids.”

The Northern Region allows a maximum of 31 extra workout sessions during the calendar year — 12 in each of the off seasons and seven summer sessions. The workouts must be optional and open to all students and not be a prerequisite for making a team. School administrators are charged with keeping track of the workouts.

The new rule has its critics. Even with the built-in dead periods, there is the possibility that the rule — and coaches — will subtly encourage students to further specialize in one sport as opposed to playing multiple sports, even if school administrators discourage that.

It’s already thinned the coaching ranks. Mountain View’s Pattie Sullivan guided the Wildcats’ field hockey and softball teams and has since given up the latter now that she can work more with her state runner-up field hockey team year-round. “I just did not feel that I would be able to have adequate time for both sports, she said.

Even if Jackson, an assistant on Lee’s 2007-08 Northern Region champion team and now in his fourth year as head coach, has only 12 days, that’s 12 more than he had before.

A lot of them, when the season ended, they went to their other sports and they didn’t really go to basketball, he said. These 12 days are really like a lifeline for you to try to even the playing field before the season starts. I don’t want to waste any of them. I want them to see themselves growing every time.”

H.S. Coaches In Virginia Can Work With Players Almost Year-Round

Washington Post, Preston Williams

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/highschools/varsity-letter-in-va-practice-gets-a-calendar-adjustment/2011/10/13/gIQAOYMHvL_story.html

Lee sophomore basketball player Amber Bryson picked up a ball on the low block and laid it into the basket, then switched to the left side to do the same thing. Back and forth she bounced, to see how many baskets she could make in 60 seconds, as Lancers Coach Harold Jackson offered pointers.

It was a low-key, skills-driven workout in the Springfield school’s auxiliary gym in late September, an unremarkable session except for one reason — any year prior it would have been a clear violation of Virginia High School League rules.

No longer. Virginia’s softened out-of-season practice rule, long discussed but not adopted until last winter, has arrived this school year, allowing high school coaches to work with their athletes virtually year-round, except for dead periods at the start of the fall, winter and spring sports seasons.

Each jurisdiction can adopt stricter guidelines than what the state allows, which is what the Virginia AAA Northern Region has done. Even so, the rule is a boon to high school coaches who have long wondered why they are allowed to instruct their players during a season but not before or after one, akin to a math teacher being barred from tutoring in July.

The new rule is designed to help all high school sports programs, but it might be of particular benefit to struggling ones like Lee’s. The Lancers went 1-19 last season, featured a rotation of mostly freshmen and sophomores, went winless on the junior varsity, had no ninth-grade team and have fewer year-round basketball players than many of the schools they compete against.

In other words, the Lancers need the extra work. Only four girls showed up to that initial out-of-season workout, but that number doubled for the second one.

By the time tryouts roll around, Lee and other teams throughout Virginia will be further along than they usually are. The same goes for squads in just about every sport.

“Last year we didn’t get the chance to do this, and it showed, said Bryson, the only varsity player from last season at that first workout. I think it’s going to help us a lot.”

“We can focus on everything that we needed to work on last season and put it all into here so we have that and more for the season, sophomore Cassie Clayton said.

The out-of-season practices are designed to improve individual skills and hone fundamentals and, really, to meet the greater demands of students and parents, who now might be less inclined to seek outside help from a private trainer or other resource. For years now, sports have been sports, not seasons, for many participants.

And that’s what has bugged area coaches: not being able to continue to work with the players that they have full access to for a few months of the year while their sport is in season.

Here’s the argument that Langley boys’ basketball Coach Travis Hess used to make:

To become a head coach, you have to go through a panel interview, then interview with the principal and [athletic director], give a writing sample when you apply, a resume, and then to give you the job you have to get clearances, background check. They say you are the person, after all this work, that we feel is best for our basketball program. You can work with these young men from November to February. After that, anybody can coach them. We don’t care who it is, as long as it’s not you.”

And now?

“We’re starting to get to the point where we can have more access to kids, Hess said. If we’re the ones the schools view as the so-called experts, then we should be the ones working with kids.”

The Northern Region allows a maximum of 31 extra workout sessions during the calendar year — 12 in each of the off seasons and seven summer sessions. The workouts must be optional and open to all students and not be a prerequisite for making a team. School administrators are charged with keeping track of the workouts.

The new rule has its critics. Even with the built-in dead periods, there is the possibility that the rule — and coaches — will subtly encourage students to further specialize in one sport as opposed to playing multiple sports, even if school administrators discourage that.

It’s already thinned the coaching ranks. Mountain View’s Pattie Sullivan guided the Wildcats’ field hockey and softball teams and has since given up the latter now that she can work more with her state runner-up field hockey team year-round. “I just did not feel that I would be able to have adequate time for both sports, she said.

Even if Jackson, an assistant on Lee’s 2007-08 Northern Region champion team and now in his fourth year as head coach, has only 12 days, that’s 12 more than he had before.

A lot of them, when the season ended, they went to their other sports and they didn’t really go to basketball, he said. These 12 days are really like a lifeline for you to try to even the playing field before the season starts. I don’t want to waste any of them. I want them to see themselves growing every time.”






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