Is it better to be great at one sport in high school or good at a couple?
In a round-about way, the legislative council of the Arizona Interscholastic Association is tackling that issue today.
The council is scheduled to consider an amendment to AIA bylaws that would curtail coaches' contact with student-athletes when their particular sport is not in season.
Basically, coaches would not be able to conduct practices in their offseasons during the school year. Summer activities would not be affected, nor would "non-team" sports such as cross country, golf, swimming and track.
On the surface, the reasoning behind the amendment is sound. Increasingly, sports such as football, basketball and baseball have become nearly year-round endeavors. There are fall baseball practices and games, football weight-lifting sessions that begin right after the season ends, spring football and spring basketball open gyms.
While attendance isn't mandatory, athletes know it is in their best interests to attend these offseason "workouts." Obviously, it is a way to get better. Athletes also often think not attending is a sure way to drop on the depth chart.
Some people think when youngsters have such pressure, they are reluctant to go out for multiple sports. The student-athletes are afraid if they miss offseason workouts with their primary sport to play another sport, someone will get their starting position.
That isn't right. There is no doubt the high school experience is enhanced if students participate in more than one group, be it multiple sports teams or a sports team and a club, etc.
"I'm in favor of limiting coaches' access to their players in the offseason," said Cheryl Morrow, athletic director at Apache Junction High School. "I definitely see advantages in being in more than one sport."
Yet, there is another side to all this. The sad truth is not concentrating on one sport could cost a student-athlete a college scholarship. If a player in California works all year with his high school coaching staff while a player in Arizona can only be coached during a particular season, who do you think will have the edge in the minds of college recruiters? This is particularly true in football, a sport in which athletes don't have a club team to play with in the offseason.
"What do I do when a kid tells me all he wants to do is play football?" said Chaparral football coach Ron Estabrook. "Do I tell him I can't see him?"
Estabrook and other 4A football coaches have submitted an amendment to the amendment asking for the continuance of spring football should the restrictions on coaches be passed.
Morrow said she would only support the coaching restrictions if spring football is grandfathered in.
For Estabrook, that isn't enough.
Granted, he pointed out, the change would allow players and coaches to continue playing in summer football passing leagues. But Estabrook said the league would be wasted if teams and coaches weren't allowed to practice during the last few weeks of school, which are just before the start of the passing league.
Yes, the amendment before the AIA's legislative council today is an idea in the correct direction. The council would be wise, though, to consider such legislation on a sport-by-sport basis. It is wrong to enact a rule that would affect badminton and football equally.
Reality says so.