“The Sunshine State Athletic Conference is encouraged about the passing of HB 7137.  This is a great step forward in giving coaches, parents and schools a voice in their sports and programs, by allowing them to choose where their programs are best suited. This allows for the greatest level of success for their student athletes. The Sunshine State Athletic Conference strives to unite like-minded organizations to offer a level playing field…allowing all schools and athletes to succeed.” said Stuart Weiss, President of the Sunshine State Athletic Conference.

And that my friends is where we are in today’s society: “allowing all schools and athletes to succeed.”

That is not what high school sports is about Mr. Weiss.  There is a winner, and there is a loser.  Always. Every time.  Every single game.  You can’t have both teams win a football game, both girls win the tennis match.  But what you’re wanting to see happen in Florida, and what the House of Reps voted on today is trying to do just this, in my opinion.

I’m sitting here in California, and I don’t know all of the issues regarding the politics there in Florida.  I understand that.  I have coached 14 years of football here in Southern California, I’ve been a Head Coach for 8 of those; I’ve also been an Athletic Director for 6 years, have my Masters in Athletic Administration, and am a Certified Athletic Administrator.  So, I do have a background in high school athletics.

And what I’ve read today in this HB 7137 bill makes me cringe at the future of high school athletics not only in Florida but abroad.  Because as soon as this bill passes in Florida, other folks are going to start pushing their lawmakers.

I agree, parents should have a choice on where to send their kids for their education.  That seems to be what the folks pushing 7137 are hiding behind.  But with our life choices come consequences.  If you want to home school your child, then you’re making a decision to put him/her in a position that is different from the kids who go to a traditional high school.  That’s just how it is. That is your choice!

If you choose a private school, that’s fine.  But if that private school doesn’t field football, and your Johnny is the next Johnny Unitas, I have an idea: don’t send him to that school!  Obviously, it’s not the best situation for him.  But these parents these days want their cake, and want to eat it too.

On April 22, 2015, the Florida House of Representative voted 86 – 29 in favor of HB 7137, a bill that will dramatically change the landscape of high school athletics as we know them in the Florida.  But what I’m concerned about here is how this landmark decision may change high school athletics across the Nation.

You can read all of the jargon from this bill here. If you want.  

I have read the entire thing, and I’ve cut out 5 important parts of it to discuss here; 5 Ways That Florida Legislature Is Ruining High School Sports.  I have taken these statements out of the bill, so yes, they are out of context.  Hopefully you get the jist of it.  Here are the new parts of this law that I have a problem with, and that I think will ruin high school sports as we know them.

“The FHSAA may not deny or discourage interscholastic athletic competition between its member schools and nonmember non-FHSAA member Florida schools, including members of another athletic association governing organization. . . . “

The FHSAA is the Florida High School Athletic Association.  Like most states, they will not allow you to compete against a team that is not a part of their association.  This is what associations are for!! You all agree on a level playing field, you agree to a set of dos and donts, you agree to legislature that governs the playing field.  For instance, all student-athletes must have a 2.0, or all student-athletes must have a physical on file from a doctor.  By having the teams in your association only play other teams in your association, you avoid a LOT of headaches.

Playing teams within the same association only makes things fairer for all involved.  XYZ High School playing a school like IMG for instance, a “school” that is really a football academy for the best players in the nation simply isn’t fair.  I know life isn’t fair, I’m the first one to tell you that.  But I’m a big believer in an association.  Here in California, it is called the California Interscholastic Federation.  We aren’t allowed to play schools not in this association.  Why?  Because those schools don’t adhere to the same set of rules. It’s pretty basic!

The policy of FHSAA says that you can’t pick and choose which sports play in their association.  If you want your school in the FHSAA, then all of your sports play under that organization.  But folks like Weiss with the Sunshine State Athletic Conference want to be able to pick and choose which of your sports play under FHSAA and which don’t. Does this mean you can move your football team, or girl’s tennis team in and out of the FHSAA depending on how well they are doing?  But them pull them out when all of the studs graduate?  Let’s all be winners!  Trophies all around!

The bylaws governing residence and transfer shall allow the student to be eligible in the school in which he or she first enrolls each school year or the school in which the student makes himself or herself a candidate for an athletic team by engaging in a practice before prior to enrolling in the school.  The bylaws shall also allow the student to be eligible in the school to which the student has transferred during the school year is eligible in the school to which he or she transfers.”

“makes himself or herself a candidate for an athletic team by engaging in a practice before prior to enrolling in the school.”  Are you reading this legislators?  Do you understand what this really means?  Kids are going to move all over the place until they find a coach who tells them what they want to hear.  “Yes son, you will get a trophy, I promise.  And a D1 scholarship.”

This now allows students to transfer back and forth to the school of his or her choice.  There are no more attendance lines, no more districts set up by where you live.  You choose where you want to go compete, I mean go to high school.  Since it says “each school year,” you can change your school each school year and be eligible immediately.

It goes one step further by saying that a student who transfers during the school year is eligible in the school he/she transfers to.  Do these legislators have ANY idea what they have opened up here?

The proponents will say “this is good for kids.”  But is it REALLY?  This moving all around teaches these kids nothing about high school sports, and what coaches have been teaching kids through sports for a hundred years.  Team first.  Character.  Perseverance.  Work with others.  That stuff is gone.  There is no patience anymore with this new philosophy of transfer whenever you want, wherever you want, just find what you want mentality.

Policies governing student eligibility for extracurricular activities should not impede parental school  choice.  A student’s school attendance zone or choice of educational program should not be a barrier to participation in extracurricular activities that are not offered by the student’s school or program.

This means that a parent chooses where his/her kid goes to school.  I’m good with that.  But the next sentence jacks this thing up.  If you want to go to a home school or private school that doesn’t offer the sport you want to play, now that’s okay.  Go to that school, and then participate over here for Coach Jones at XYZ High School.  How long until we see a “home school program” with 11 kids – all football players!?!!  Their parents choose to put them in this “Backyard Academy” where they really aren’t getting a very good education, not being taught by certified and credentialed teachers, but then rolling out to football practice at 230 pm to be with the team.

Before it was “let’s choose a school that will be best for my child’s whole education: social, mental, physical, etc.”  Now, it’s “let’s piece together what is best for Tony.”  He doesn’t really like “traditional school” because he has to be in class all day, and the teachers are hard.  So, we are going to home school him, but we want him to play basketball at XYZ School.  Now they can!

And you know what happens: those parents who are choosing to home school their kid for a variety of reasons, or send their kid to a charter for a variety of reasons are going to impose their philosophy of raising a kid on the coaching staff.  Whereas Johnny gets to do whatever he wants to do at his home school, and his term paper is due whenever he finishes it, he isn’t going to have that same philosophy of education on the basketball court.

So what happens?  The parents get feisty because the coach wants to impose rules, and hold their son to standards.  They don’t like the standards, they don’t like their son being held accountable, that’s why they pulled him out of school in the first place.

So now they call a meeting with the Athletic Director and Principal, and call the coach a bully.  Yes Florida Legislatures, this HAPPENS!! This WILL happen!

A student may not be declared ineligible to participate in interscholastic athletic competition because the student participated on a nonschool team or nonschool team affiliated with the school in which the student ultimately enrolls or because the student participated in nonschool athletic activities sponsored by a member school of the nonprofit association if, after participating, the student registers for, enrolls in, or applies to attend the sponsoring school.

Again, this opens up a recruiter’s paradise.  We all know it’s happening already.  Susie plays on Coach Bill’s Club Soccer team in the offseason, then makes a decision to go play for Coach Bill’s high school team.  Or Johnny with Coach Jack’s 7 on 7 Club Team.  These legislators have ZERO clue how prevalent this is, and what kind of drama this now puts out on the table.

They don’t understand what it now going to happen to kids transferring all over the place due to their club participation.  I’m not ot a real fan of clubs here.  The reason?  I’ve seen the undue stress so many of them put on kids and their families.  The promised scholarships, the financial burden, the time burden, all ending with burning out the kid, and thousands of dollars wasted.

All public school students, including those enrolled in public schools of choice and virtual education, all home education students, and students attending an unaffiliated private school may participate in any extracurricular activity not offered by the student’s school or home education program at any public school in the school district in which the student resides or a public school in another school district which the student could choose to attend pursuant to an interdistrict controlled open enrollment policy.

Now, you can go to your mom’s basement for school, or your uncle’s private school, and still go to the powerhouse football program you want to go to.  You take online classes whenever you want, get mommy to maintain your GPA, and play baseball for XYZ School.  I’m sure you’ll never be ineligible.  Do the legislators really believe this to be best for kids?

Do you know the good that coaches do for their kids on campus on a DAILY basis?  Do you know the good that comes from grade checks, and team study halls, and team academic awards?  That’s all gone with this law.

Imagine being a head coach with half of your team from your own high school, 3 of them from Billy’s Charter School, 2 of them from Florida Online High School, 3 of them from Grandma’s Home School Paradise.  What in the world is that going to look like?  How do you monitor grades?  How do you have a lunch meeting?  How do you build community spirit and pride?

Is a team going to be made up of that many different schools, and kids from those different places?  I don’t know.  Probably not.  But maybe.

This last part of the law is the worst part in my opinion.  I’ve worked in the private sector for 10 years; I’ve been at a Charter school for 18 months, I’ve worked at a public high school as a teacher and coach.  I’ve seen those different systems at work.  And they are all so different, they really are.

What this law is going to do is create even more haves and have nots.  Schools are going to be able to create all star teams loaded with talent.  Kids will want to go play for Coach Jones at XYZ High School, so they will transfer from ABC High School to Mama’s Charter.  Mama’s Charter will not offer football, on purpose, so that those kids can go play football for Coach Jones.  Street agent club coaches will get involved, and direct kids where to go, who to play for.

And there will be a HUGE lack of oversight on this because the legislators want to make it fair.  The Sunshine State Athletic Conference wants everyone to get a trophy.  It’s a sad state of affairs folks.  It really is.  I haven’t spoken to one coach today, from anywhere in the nation, who thinks this is a good idea.

I really hope that this law fails at the Senate level next week. I really do.  Otherwise, we might look back to April of 2015 as the time “it all changed.”

 

Chris Fore is a veteran high school football coach and athletic director from Southern California.  His consulting company Eight Laces helps coaches nationwide at the collegiate and high school level secure the job of their dreams.  He is the author of several different coaching books including Building Championship Caliber Football Programs, and An Insider’s Guide To Scoring Your Next Coaching Job.

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