Archive for Monday, February 18, 2013

Bills seek to overhaul high school competition

February 18, 2013


In what has become an annual ritual at the Kansas Statehouse, lawmakers again this year will consider bills that would overturn certain rules on high school athletic competition and revamp the board that supervises school competitions.

This year, however, critics of the Kansas State High School Activities Association have ramped up their public relations campaign by releasing a YouTube video that explains why they think parents – as opposed to teachers, coaches and school officials – should have more say in governing high school competition.

“The current board is a bit antiquated for our state,” said Margaret Bonicelli of Overland Park, who appears in the video. “Other states are light years ahead of us, and we haven't made changes to our board in many, many, many years.”

The video is aimed at drumming up support for H.B. 2197. That bill would revamp the governing boards of all interscholastic leagues in Kansas, making sure that community members who aren't educators make up half of each league's governing board. It would also give non-educators at least four out of 14 seats on an expanded KSHSAA executive board.

Another bill, H.B. 2307, would extend to cheerleading the same special exemption lawmakers approved two years ago for swimming. It would lift the KSHSAA ban on participating on high school and private athletic club teams at the same time.

Supporters say parents of student-athletes should have more say in how competitions are governed - competitions that can be the key to students earning scholarships and qualifying for Division I college athletics.

But critics fear it would take authority from schools and their coaches to manage their own teams and programs, and sets up situations in which school a team could lose a star player in important games due to scheduling conflicts with club competitions.

"As your season progresses, you get down to the final days of tournaments, then proceeding to the post-season, and all of a sudden an athlete might decide to go to Las Vegas for a two-day tournament that's the same day as the sub-state or state tournament is happening at your high school, so now the kid has to make a choice," Lawrence High School athletics director Ron Commons said. "If parents are involved in that, they see the glamor of going on, and in their own self-interest, they leave the rest of their high school team sitting without their star player."

Bonicelli, whose two sons were competitive swimmers at Blue Valley Northwest High School, was instrumental in lobbying for a bill in 2011 that lifted the ban on dual-participation for swimmers. Sen. Vicki Schmidt, a Topeka Republican who also raised two sons who were championship swimmers, was chief sponsor of that measure in the Legislature.

“They were both All-Americans,” Schmidt said of her sons. “They both went to Olympic trials. So they were very accomplished swimmers in high school. Both had to make the decision of whether they continued with high school swimming, or didn't do high school swimming and just continued with their club swimming.”

The dual-participation ban still applies to other sports, so Bonicelli and others are pushing for structural changes to the activities association's executive board, as well as governing boards of all high school leagues, in hopes of giving parents more influence. The current executive board is made up entirely of school employees, school board members and members of the Kansas State Board of Education.

“I guess (the bill) presumes that people who are licensed educators either aren't qualified or can't be trusted to make good decisions about school activity programs,” said Gary Musselman, executive director of KSHSAA.

Rep. Ed Trimmer, Winfield, who is ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee, said he sees no reason to change the governing board's structure, and he also supports the ban on dual participation, even though his daughter was a competitive swimmer in private swim clubs.

“What you have are kids who never practice with the team, and then come to the meets and swim in place of somebody who's been practicing with the team,” Trimmer said. “So that student is never allowed to practice with that better swimmer to improve themselves and see a higher standard.”

But Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick, R- Stilwell, who has been a critic of the current organization for many years, believes the change would be good for competition.

“There are a lot of school districts in the state that can't come out and say it, but they view the Kansas State High School Activities Association as a dictatorial agency,” Merrick said. “Some of the decisions they make completely take the parents out of the equation, and I think they're the ones that should be responsible.”

Bills aimed at overhauling the governance of KSHSAA have been introduced several times in the past. But Bonicelli believes it has a better chance this year, mainly because many legislators who had opposed changes in the past were defeated in the 2012 elections.

“Definitely, we have more support now in both the Senate and the House,” she said.


Bob Forer 5 years, 4 months ago

That's all we need. A bunch of crazy "soccer moms and dads" dictating to school officials. Don't we have more important pressing state issues to deal with?

elliottaw 5 years, 4 months ago

Wait so there is a state law that says you can't be on two teams at the same time? Kansas is insane what the kids do outside of school is their own business, if the coach doesn't want to play someone who is not at practice they have all right to do that, the state needs to mind their own business.

question4u 5 years, 4 months ago

Topeka must be overflowing with champion swimmers, since this bill is obviously the highest priority among Schmidt's constituents. Of course it's possible that they voted her into office so that she could pursue her personal agenda, but that's far fetched. It seems much more likely that Topeka parents see the rights of their children to participate in both high school and club swimming as the single most pressing concern in Kansas today. No doubt they clamored for action: "Enough of the injustice! Remove this affront to liberty and common decency! Let them swim!"

If parents want their children to be able to choose between double commitment to sports or adequate time for homework why should school districts have any say in the matter? If double sports hurts a child's academic performance, then parents will no doubt be the first to step forward and accept responsibility for their child's failure. After all, isn't that what they do already?

Paul R Getto 5 years, 4 months ago

Leave KSHSAA alone. Fix the budget instead.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

"Fix the budget instead."

They can't--they haven't finished breaking it.

Kookamooka 5 years, 4 months ago

Save school budgets for instruction and fitness not competition. Let the private sports clubs handle that! If public schools divest themselves of the financial burden of competitive sports, there might be money to hire more teachers, reduce class sizes and pay those teachers what they deserve. Private sports could then be sponsored by the Koch brothers and Sprint.

We can NOT have the luxury of fancy sports facilities and uniforms to keep up with the wealthier districts. Divest of sports completely. What a savings of government money there would be for education in the state of Kansas. Divest Brownback. I dare you!

Kookamooka 5 years, 4 months ago

I would bet, if all competitive sports went private, the coaches would make a lot more money and they wouldnt have to pretend to teach social studies. Our teens would score higher on their history assessments, and the kids wouldnt have to choose between school and club sports. It would all be club. Problems solved!

William Weissbeck 5 years, 4 months ago

This sadly is the reality of competitive sports. Gymnastics, wrestling and dance start at the earliest. Swimming is then not far behind. If you expect to play baseball or soccer in HS, you are on a traveling team by age 10 or 11. Even girls in softball will have hitting and pitching coaches by middle school. And we haven't even touched the hardly amateur sport that is AAU basketball. As a guy, I wonder how many late developing boys miss out on all of this as they are quickly past over. I wonder what percentage of these kids get a Div. 1 scholarship, or burn out after a year at Div. III. In the process, have we lost the fun of the game for the rest?

illinijones 5 years, 4 months ago

The problem with schools not sponsoring athletics is that low income kids are left out. Club sports can be very expensive. Sure, the star basketball player will be given a free ride because of his/her talent but the kids who are of average talent, but love the sport, are left out if their parents can't afford it.

Kookamooka 5 years, 4 months ago

I disagree. The low income kids will be scouted nd recruited.

elliottaw 5 years, 4 months ago

no they will not because they will lose the chance to play at all, meaning that no one will know that they have any talent, they will just be forgotten. Not that I am a fan of exploiting kids for their athletic ability because all most all of these kids are throw to the side at a later date. Less than 10% of kids playing high school sports go on to play them in college, and less than 0.5% of college athletes ever go pro. But sports in general are good for kids to participate in even if they never get any playing time, it teaches them to work for something and work with other people.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 4 months ago

So make a law that club seasons can't be at the same time as the high school season. Minnesota has this policy in place. Girls' high school swimming is a fall sport, and they can do club in the winter and train with the club the rest of the year. Boys swim for their schools in the winter and their clubs in the fall, I believe. They rarely have a problem with conflicts. The club coaches see the high school teams as an opportunity for their swimmers to continue training and swim against their club teammates. This is also the state that puts kids on ice as soon as they can walk. The swimmers I knew in high school were all excellent students as well as being involved in other activities like music. Some were able to swim in the Olympic trials, and a few even qualified to swim for the US team while also training to swim in college. If Kansas forms such a policy, then parents won't feel the need to be involved in government boards. Then any high school athlete could be on a club team if they choose. If their academics suffer, then kick them off the high school team. We let music students take private lessons, shouldn't athletes be allowed to do the same? If we want low income students to have the same opportunities, then the clubs should have scholarships. Unfortunately swimming is a sport where it helps to have money. We can only hope that coaches will see opportunities for kids when they don't have the funds.

JoCoTigr 5 years, 4 months ago

The KSHSAA has only two purposes: Protect schools so they can be the social centers of small Kansas towns, and protect football from having superior athletes poached by other sports. The board is as self serving as the 2013 Kansas Legislature,

Liberty275 5 years, 4 months ago

"But critics fear it would take authority from schools and their coaches to manage their own teams and programs, and sets up situations in which school a team could lose a star player in important games due to scheduling conflicts with club competitions."

Mr state/srs/teacher/coach/bus driver/babysitter/whatever, it's time you figured out who the kid belongs to and it isn't you.

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