17 AndrewEsterlyWhen Up & Coming Weekly publisher Bill Bowman and I first started discussing the things we wanted to do with this page, one of the first items I mentioned was honoring scholar-athletes from Cumberland County.

We see plenty of lists of athletes with all kinds of scoring and rushing and passing averages through the athletic year, but I fear we often forget that athletics is a sideshow to what young people are really in school for, to get an education.
I was reminded of that last week when I got a request from Tracy Esterly on Facebook to add her to my circle of friends. Esterly is the mother of Gray’s Creek High School wrestler Andrew Esterly, who competed for the Bears in the recent N.C. High School Athletic Association wrestling championships held at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Esterly wrestled in the 132-pound classification where he finished fifth in the state in his weight class.
But that’s not why I mention him in this week’s column. His mother posted a picture of him on Facebook, which you’ll see elsewhere on this page, sitting in the stands in the Greensboro Coliseum with textbook open, studying for his class in advanced placement human geography.
Making good grades is enough of a challenge by itself, but it’s even more challenging when you’re in a sport like wrestling. Of all the sports I’ve covered, wrestling makes the most personal demands on athletes, from maintaining precise weight to having to monitor their health carefully for signs of illness that can keep you out of competition.

I applaud Esterly and all athletes like him for their commitment to push themselves to athletic excellence while at the same time maintaining the highest possible standards in the classroom.

My longtime friend Rick Strunk, now retired as associate commissioner of the N.C. High School Athletic Association, recalled a conversation he had with a parent who called in a few years ago.

The father wanted to know if he, as a parent, could override the diagnosis of a doctor who said his son shouldn’t return to the football field. According to Strunk, the son had been diagnosed with a concussion, and the doctor wouldn’t release him to play.
Strunk tried to explain the logic of keeping the son on the bench, asking the father if he would want to reverse the doctor’s decision if his son was suffering from a knee injury.

There’s currently a bill pending in the North Carolina House of Representatives that would give parents the right to overrule the doctor if it passes.
Under the language of the bill, an athlete diagnosed with a concussion will be removed from the game or practice and not be allowed to return that day.
However, it then gives a parent or legal guardian the right to submit written clearance to the school so the athlete can resume competition.
I’m certainly in favor of parents being involved in making key decisions about their children and athletics, but the logic behind giving this much latitude
escapes me.

Parents don’t need to be given the freedom to decide if their children are healthy enough to return to the playing field, especially with concussions. That decision should be left in the hands of medical professionals.

Hopefully, this bill will not get serious consideration and die quickly in committee. Names have been determined for the conferences the Cumberland County Schools will be playing in next season. Both leagues will have new names.  Members of the former Mid-South 4-A and Cape Fear Valley 3-A are joining a combination 3-A/4-A league that will be called the Patriot Athletic Conference. The old Southeastern 4-A, which will be adding Jack Britt and Seventy-First next season, is changing its name to the Sandhills Athletic Conference, or SAC-8. Both new leagues begin play in the 2017-18 school year.


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