High school football doesn’t get much bigger than Texas, but even that state doesn’t have year-round coaching, something Arizona high school coaches will be able to conduct in the offseason beginning July 1.
Dr. Charles Breithaupt, executive director of the Texas University Interscholastic League, responded to azcentral sports on how Texas conducts the offseasons for coaches.
“The Texas UIL does not allow coaches to provide instruction to student-athletes from their own attendance zone outside the school season,” Breithaupt said in an email. “However, we do allow a strength and conditioning program four days per week, for six weeks during the summer. Sport specific skill instruction is prohibited. The summer 7-on-7 football events in the summer can be organized by coaches. However, the school, the school booster club and school coaches are prohibited from providing transportation, funds or instruction for players from their attendance zone.
“Coaches do organize and are heavily involved with who coaches the teams but this is clearly a non-school event just like AAU basketball or select baseball or soccer. We believe that because our schools are allowed one hour a day during the school day to work with athletes, that additional time in the summer could cause that time to be eliminated. Also, most of coaches believe that athletes need time away from them and vice-versa. Even the NFL and NBA have periods of dead time. Allowing coaches to coach year round is not something our coaches or schools are interested in at this time.”
The Arizona Interscholastic Association’s year-round coaching rule beginning July 1 is having a ripple effect across the high school sports landscape.
But before panic sets in, and coaches begin demanding more than a $4,000 stipend (whatever his or her district pays per sport to lead their kids during a season), take a deep breath.
The quality of coaching continues to be on the rise in Arizona.
Good coaches who are secure with themselves and know what’s best for kids aren’t going to hold an athlete hostage to a sport year-round and grind them into the ground. As it has been for some time now, coaches pretty much have year-round contact with fall and summer baseball and basketball leagues.
Some districts for years have had sport-specific physical-education courses year-round, where the head coach in that sport runs the class, working on drills and skills one half and strength training the second half of classes.
Chandler Hamilton has had its early-morning soccer academy.
Coaches aren’t going to try to upstage the coach with a season in progress by putting pressure on an athlete to be with them and not the team in season. They see enough of them throughout the year.
“I doubt that coaches will be holding full practices outside the normal time frame,” said Scottsdale Coronado Athletic Director Dave Huffine, who is the former head football coach at Scottsdale Chaparral. “They will risk alienating their fellow coaching colleagues on their own campus and place an unwanted burden on kids that could easily get burnt out.”
Do coaches really think athletes want to hear their voice year-round?
And if they don’t mind, hey, they’ve got the one person they want to be around helping them at every turn, keeping them away from the so-called vultures, being recruiting by another school to go play for them.
They’re not being poisoned by bad advice. There is a reason a kid stays in a program. There is trust and camaraderie that goes with bonding year-round with teammates and coaches.
But, in the end, everybody needs a take a break — the athlete, the coach, even the parents.
And communication among coaches and families will have to be better than ever.
“Relationships between coaches of all sports immediately becomes the most important thing for kids,” new Chandler Basha football coach Rich Wellbrock said. “Trusting each other and having the same message that goes out to student-athletes and parents.”
For the athletes, play as many sports as you want.
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This is most important for the small schools, where numbers are at a premium and coaches have to share athletes to keep their programs going.
“The amount of athletes playing two or three sports will dwindle, which will make some teams less competitive,” Phoenix Northwest Christian Athletic Director and football coach Dave Inness fears. “I believe that you only go to high school once in your life and should play everything you can because it’s such a great experience representing your school and playing with your friends and only a small percent ever go on to play college sports.”
If athletes are intent on gaining a sports scholarship, college football coaches will tell you they lean toward the multi-sport athletes, because of the versatility and athleticism they develop. They know how important it is to get away from that sport for a few months, so they won’t burn out on their God-given sport.
If you feel you want to work year-round in one sport, then use the off-season to work on techniques, skills, fundamentals, strength and speed. Your high school coaches will now be able to better help without feeling they’re violating any bylaws.
This AIA bylaw especially helps the families who don’t have the financial resources to pay for private training and travel clubs, where coaches feel they hold the keys to the athletes’ recruiting success. They don’t have to travel all over the Valley to find experts to help them if they feel they can get the help they need from their high school coach.
Don’t expect this new rule to change the club landscape.
Top athletes are still going to attend showcase national tournaments because of the quality of competition and the college coaches who attend them.
If the family wants to do that, and feels that is in their children’s best interest, no high school coach has the leverage to try to stop them with undue pressure. How is that going to help your program?
“We won’t be practicing year-round,” said Basha boys basketball coach Mike Grothaus, who just led the Bears to a 30-1 record and the school’s first state championship. “I think the kids need time off. They need time to play with their club.
“We work with them in the off-season. We have sixth-hour (sport) PE (in the Chandler Unified School District). We don’t need extra time.
“I worry about the multi-sport athletes. They need a break from one sport. I know I want a break from our kids. They get tired of hearing my voice. When it’s time to work, we’ll work. … When I have a football kid, he’s not practicing basketball when he’s in football season. When basketball is going on, he’s not going in 7-on-7 (football) tournaments.”
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When this rule begins, things will calm down, and you’ll see that not much has changed.
There will still be club sports. There will still be high school seasons. And there will still be kids doing both.
It would be good to see coaches paid more (their main money comes from teaching). But ask most good coaches, and they’ll tell you they’re not in it for the money.