Level playing rules on and off the field

Posted: Friday, May 19, 2000

Whether we all agree or not, sports is about competition. Not everyone gets to play, not everyone even makes the team. But that's how this country has defined sports for decades - the best make the team and the very best play.

In a perfect world, everyone would play, but that doesn't happen. So we rely on coaches to pick our teams and, for most of us, we want teams that win. In Juneau, like most of the country, how those teams are picked and under what guidelines is becoming a lightening rod for criticism.

To its credit, the Juneau School District board is tackling the issue after hearing complaints about inconsistencies in regulations and practices relating to high school sports. Earlier this week, they put out a proposed revision of the city's sports policy.

We believe that coaches should be able to determine the makeup of their teams. They are best suited to decide what is the best makeup of a team in any given year. That's what we pay them to do.

At the same time, however, we also believe that parents and student athletes should know what the ``rules'' are. That is what the school board is attempting to do. There needs to be a level playing field, where everyone knows what is and is not required.

The school board's proposal includes requiring coaches to have written criteria for student participation in sports. We support this concept when it refers to things such as maintaining minimum grade point averages, standard substance abuse policies, guidelines on infractions that can result in being kicked off a team, whether summer training is required, and to what extent parents and students must participate in fund raising for trips.

These proposals should be uniform for all sports and it is imperative that the school board require coaches to abide by them equally. We also support the idea of performance evaluations for coaches, provided that coaches have a clear understanding of how they will be judged and under what criteria.

As we said before, coaches should have the right to determine who makes the team and who plays. Yet at the same time, it's important that everyone - coaches, players and parents - know and follow the guidelines, and that those rules and regulations be uniform so everyone is on a level playing field and everyone has the same opportunity.

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