Three week summer practice session underway

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The school year just ended, but athletes will be back on the field and on the courts starting this week. The three-week practice period starts today and will continue through July third. The three week, out of season practice period for all sports was adopted by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission starting in 2003.

The State Board of Education is entertaining the idea to opening up the entire year for out-of-season coaching for high school and middle school athletes. The 30-day public comment period on the proposal came to a close last week. The board is likely to take up the proposal for a vote at is meeting next month. If approved by the state school board, the modification would allow coaching all year except for Saturdays, Sundays, the week of July 4 and one week before the start of the season.

Proponents of the change say it will level the playing field for West Virginia student-athletes who play against teams in bordering states that have less restrictive rules governing out-of-season coaching. Supporters also claim college recruiters do not get an opportunity to actually evaluate athletes during the spring and summer.

“The longer we wait, the further behind we fall,” said Martinsburg football coach Dave Walker, who adds that administrators of each school can police the system to make sure coaches aren’t abusing it by wearing out kids. “If you make the change now, you can always go back and amend it in the future. If it just gets voted down, then we’re still in the same boat that we have been in and I don’t think that’s good.”

However, the proposal has a number of oppoenents who don’t necessarily want to see out-of-season coaching expanded.

“I think the worst thing we could do is open it clear up because without any parameters it will be abused,” stated Morgantown High football coach John Bowers on recently on WAJR-AM.

University High coach John Kelly agrees that some coaches will take advantage of the rule change and regardless of what proponents think, there will be pressure on athletes to pick one sport over another.

“I don’t care who you are or what you say, there’s going to be pressure on the kid out of season,” Kelly said.

Kelly also took exception to the assertion the expanded practices could create more opportunities to be noticed by college coaches, especially football players.

“Division I players in West Virginia are very small, Coach Nehlen pointed that out when he first game here. Number two, they don’t miss them very often. There’s not like a 100 of them out there we’re overlooking. You can practice every day for 24 hours and there’s not going to be any more of them,” Kelly insisted.