Let’s talk about what is happening in high school football around the country as it relates to sportsmanship, fair play, and the observance of rules.
A few facts: Approximately 1.1 million boys at 14,000 high schools play football. In most states, Friday nights are reserved for high school football games, Saturdays are for college games, and the NFL owns Sundays. Very few guys who play on Friday will play on Saturday and even fewer will ever play on Sunday.
99.99952% of boys who play football in high school will never make a nickel doing so.
The reason boys should play football is for the love of the game, the lessons of teamwork it provides, and the knowledge that as long as you give it your best, the score really doesn’t matter. Good coaches from grade school up through high school should be guided by those principles.
Too often, many aren’t. Too often those coaches run up scores for ego gratification.
The state of Connecticut wisely forces coaches who score fifty or more points to explain to a committee of administrators what they did to hold down the score. Absent good answers, those coaches must sit out the next game. I have seen coaches up by fifty points towards the end of the first half throwing the ball to get one more score before the break.
Football in high school always observed strict rules of boys playing for the community they lived in. Younger brothers wanted to emulate older brothers or fathers or uncles who preceded them. Communities would unite in fraternal groupings every Friday night to cheer on the home team.
But then avaricious coaches and their supporters began to entice boys on neighboring teams to leave and switch schools and allegiances. Soon games that had been 21-14 hard fought victories turned into 80-0 slaughters. The teams from which the players transferred were left dejected, depressed and defeated. The players who left those teams and then took places on the new team displaced kids who had looked forward to playing for their neighborhood team.
This switching of schools, although illegal, nonetheless went on to further the distance between the haves and the have-nots. It became so flagrant that the Florida legislature this year simply gave up trying to regulate the flow of transfers from school to school and ruled that any child could play any sport at any high school throughout the entire state as long as he or she could get to that school. In effect, it created a ludicrous free agency system at the high school level.
Parents have been complicit in this duplicitous dance of scouting out the best programs for their children in the hopes of recognition by colleges for scholarships and even beyond that to big paydays in professional sports.
Private high schools especially have taken advantage of relaxed rules for athletes to the extent that the top five high school football teams in the country this season as ranked by Max Preps are all private schools offering scholarships to student/athletes who had been heavily recruited.
More on this aspect of the high school football problem in next week’s Coach’s Corner.