High schools

Stevens: Off-the-field NCHSAA changes for the year ahead

tstevens@newsobserver.comAugust 12, 2013 

A few off-the field changes are in effect, and others are still in the works for the upcoming sports season in the N.C. High School Athletic Association.

National climate: State associations around the country are dealing with many of the same challenges the NCHSAA faces. Education is changing and interscholastic athletics are trying to adjust.

The role of school choice is a national discussion. So is the emergence of nontraditional schools such as home schools, charter , virtual and magnet schools.

Even the most basic question – is the student in school today? – has become complicated and ill-defined because of various options.

Legislatures nationwide are examining their involvement in interscholastic competition. There have been discussions in other states of eliminating their state high school association.

There also are plenty of questions not imagined 20 years ago. One item on the NCHSAA board of directors’ meeting agenda was its policy on transgender athletes. I doubt if that was imagined 100 years ago when the NCHSAA was formed.

Officials will watch: The NCHSAA is a national leader in providing game footage for game officials. The association is working on a project that would give game officials and regional supervisors access to all games for review, teaching and training.

Some coaches now exchange recordings electronically through a HUDL program. The same system can be used by game officials.

“Some people learn best by seeing,” NCHSAA Commissioner Davis Whitfield said. “It is one thing to tell an official that he was out of position. It is another to show him.”

Video in games: Paul Silver, the coach of the Marlins of Raleigh club swim team, said he expects high school coaches in some sports will embrace using recording devices for instruction during competition. A national rule change that goes into effect this fall will allow scholastic coaches to use electronic devices on the sidelines.

“IPads are the best innovation for swimming,” Silver said. “They provide instant feedback at practice and meets. Kids can make changes much easier and the devices are way better and more convenient than video recording.”

Nontraditional schools: The NCHSAA had worked for almost a year to develop a plan that would satisfy member schools’ concern with the success of non-traditional schools in the playoffs.

The NCHSAA board of directors did not approve one piece of the plan, but did deal with the concern that the nontraditional schools have no geographical boundary. Beginning this fall, the nontraditional schools, including nonboarding parochial schools Cardinal Gibbons, Winston-Salem Bishop McGuiness and Charlotte Catholic, will have boundaries.

To be eligible to play interscholastic athletics, students at the nontraditional schools need to live in the same county as the school, or within 25 miles of the school, or be a member of the church.

The board also dealt with student transfers. Students who transfer from traditional schools to the nonboarding parochial schools already are ineligible for athletics for 365 days.

The board expanded the policy to include all schools. Students who transfer schools without making a legitimate address change are ineligible for athletics, although local systems’ policy takes precedence.

But another piece in the plan, requiring nontraditional schools that were successful in specific sports to play in the playoffs in a higher classification, did not pass.

There were concerns among board members about having a disincentive for success. Other board members thought the plan affected too many schools.

If, for example, Cardinal Gibbons, a 3A volleyball power, was bumped to 4A for the volleyball playoffs, the Crusaders would be taking a spot from a 4A team. There would be 63 4A teams in the playoffs instead of 64 and there would be 65 3A teams, the complete 64-team 3A bracket plus Gibbons.

“We could never find a win-win situation,” Whitfield said.

Whitfield said the board hesitated to institute a set of rules just for the non-traditional schools.

“We want to take a holistic approach,” he said.

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