Yes, the time has come to close the book on another high school sports season.
As I ponder the end of the 2011-12 season, I can’t help feeling mixed emotions that have nothing to do with wins, losses or championships.
I know from experience some years are better than others. Though we’d like to see Baton Rouge teams dominate every sport, it’s not a realistic goal.
I’d like to congratulate all those who won state championships or finished as runners-up.
Also in line for kudos are those who reached significant milestones during the 2011-12 sports year.
However, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t discuss other topics that made this past year one that really is in question for some significant reasons.
Sportsmanship is an issue that everyone agrees must be a priority in high school sports. But I’m afraid too many people see it as being a priority when it applies to some other team and not their own.
There were two sportsmanship hearings involving local schools in the past seven months and that’s two too many. And I wonder what lessons were learned when the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s executive committee voted to lift the playoff bans for two baseball teams, Zachary High and Teurlings Catholic last month?
Is the message here just pay your fine and/or file a lawsuit and you can make the most serious sanctions disappear? That’s simplifying a complicated situation to be sure. But it also happens to be what plenty of people now believe.
Our sportsmanship issues run much deeper than any LHSAA ruling or appeal. For 2012-13, all schools should have a sportsmanship code and a plan in place to handle any sort of altercation. Sportsmanship guidelines should be given to student-athletes, coaches and parents whenever other school forms, like the student participation forms and physical forms handed out.
Schools need to issue penalties for fighting and other unsportsmanship acts like taunting. These penalties should include game, practice and/or school suspensions depending on the acts committed. Parents and fans should be told they’ll forfeit the right to attend high school events if they enter a playing field or court or if they start an altercation in the stands.
Fans, most notably student sections, should be told that they’ll be removed from a venue for using an obscenity in a chant or if they initiate cheers that target/belittle a specific athlete.
My concerns about sportsmanship go hand in hand with my concerns about the future of high school athletics in general.
Budget cuts that public schools systems like the ones the East Baton Rouge Parish School System and others like it are facing are tough to swallow for those who champion education and athletics.
I don’t hesitate to use the words education and athletics in the same sentence because they can provide the perfect complement to each other. Mind and body together.
Athletics should be used to motivate students improve in the classroom.
Involvement with athletics gives students the chance to develop a healthy lifestyle
and build self-esteem. However, budget cuts make it increasingly difficult to field teams, pay officials and pay to have equipment, like football helmets, upgraded and certified.
I’d hate to see high school athletics limited to private schools and public schools that have alumni groups with deep pockets, large budgets or the resources to draw in sponsors dollars. Unfortunately, we’re already on that road.
So while I’ll remember the 2011-12 high school sports year with fondness, I can’t help looking to the challenges ahead. They’re really big ones.