The Times West Virginian

Prep Sports

April 11, 2014

Coaches support WVSSAC ruling

State BOE to vote on extending summer practice period

FAIRMONT — West Virginia educators took a major step toward extending the summer practice period for high school sports earlier this week.

The West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission board of control voted to extend the current three-week window by five weeks. But before the rule can be made official, it must be cleared by the West Virginia Board of Education, according to WVSSAC bylaws.

The BOE will put the rule forth for public comment for 30 days. WVSSAC Executive Director Gary Ray is hopeful that this process will begin in May and that the BOE will vote on the rule in July.

If approved, the measure would be enacted 60 days later, meaning it wouldn’t go into effect until the summer of 2015.

Local coaches and athletes who were asked about the proposed rule said they were in favor of it, but said it would require the proper oversight.

Currently, all sports share the same three-week window. For multi-sport athletes like North Marion’s Quintin Markley, this meant weight lifting, basketball practice and football practice all in the same day.

“In June the last four years, it was really hard,” said the senior. “I was at North Marion for 12 hours a day, pretty much. If that was all summer, that’d be pretty tough for three-sport athletes.”

Fairmont Senior boys’ basketball coach David Retton said he has noticed that athletes can be over-extended by the current system.

“They’re probably glad to be done instead of saying they can’t wait to show up, because they’re fatigued,” he said. “Their bodies and minds have had so much put on them.”

Retton said that if the new system is approved and implemented correctly, it would actually take some of the burden off players. He suggested that the schedule should be split up. Winter sports could be allotted a few weeks. Then fall sports would get a different period, so athletes aren’t juggling multiple practices a day.

“I think it’s a great step in the right direction,” Retton said. “I think it puts us closer in line to what’s going on around our state when you look at Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland.”

The new rule would not only impact high school coaches and players, but also AAU programs that typically attend numerous tournaments and recruiting events during the summer.

Ronnie Nuzum, head coach and director of basketball operations for the West Virginia Reign AAU basketball club, said it is important to keep the athletes’ best interest in mind.

AAU coaches who are out to win tournaments will likely be opposed to the rule because it will keep them from attending a handful of events over the summer. However, Nuzum said he maintains a good relationship with the high school coaches and thinks the proposed change will benefit both programs.

“The more that the high school coaches can have their kids, the better those programs are going to be,” he said. “Our program is a little bit different (from high school). It’s about getting exposure for the kids.

“I understand how important it is to be with your (high school) teammates in the spring and the summer as well. From my perspective, it’s not going to be a big thing because we’re already basically working side by side.”

East Fairmont soccer coach Mark Harvath agrees that the bottom line is that coaches need to think about the athletes. He thinks rules and regulations must be established to keep coaches in check.

“You still have to allow the kids time to be kids,” he said. “They still have to be able to have family time and vacations and things of that nature.

“I don’t want this thing to turn into a regular season. If it turns into a season where a kid has to be there every day of the summer from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., then it could become a problem. Or if it becomes punitive to kids who can’t be there, then it becomes a problem.”

Email Mike DeFabo at mdefabo@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.

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