45EarlVaughanThere’s one week of play left in the football regular season. After that, for at least one week and maybe more, football teams from Cumberland County that qualify for the state playoffs will be in action.

Meanwhile, on Oct. 30, official practice sessions began for winter sports teams at N.C. High School Athletic Association schools in the county.

We’ll be facing a similar situation in the spring, when conference basketball tournaments will still be in progress while spring sports teams start practice Feb. 14.

For years this has been a headache for coaches and administrators, especially in smaller schools where athletes are often shared between sports teams and there is sometimes competition for use of facilities for practice. The NCHSAA recently made some major changes in its off-season practice rules, allowing coaches in most sports greater freedom to work directly with their athletes when their sport is out of season.

This was a wise decision, and it will help keep athletes under the supervision of high school coaches and less in the hands of non-school coaches who may be less worried about academic success for athletes. Now the NCHSAA needs to take the next step in this process and do something to cut down on the overlap between the seasons.

If we’re going to allow coaches to work with athletes more in the off-season, let’s take advantage of that. Do we really need the extra time to get a team ready for play if the athletes are being coached up more frequently?

I don’t think so.

I’ve felt for the longest time that we could delay the start of basketball season until after Thanksgiving. That still gives you nearly three weeks in December to start the season before Christmas break sets in.

As for winter, there’s no reason not to delay the start of spring sports until at least the week of the state basketball tournament, which this year falls on March 10.

Both basketball and baseball are sports designed for multiple games in a week. If you include an occasional Saturday game, you can spread the competition out over a six-day period, which would make it fairly easy not to schedule consecutive games.

In the case of basketball in particular, this would allow coaches to develop depth and prepare their teams for the tournament run later in the season when they play multiple games in a week.

I see these changes as a win-win for the sports that are in season. Cutting down on having to schedule basketball games in the early weeks of November while some schools are still in the football playoffs would eliminate the need of moving a basketball game when it conflicts with an unpredictable state playoff game.

The bottom line is, if we’re holding regular practices in the off-season, it shouldn’t take a coach that long to get a team into playing shape when the time comes.

I think it’s time to give this serious thought, and I hope coaches and athletic administrators will voice this idea to the NCHSAA Board of Directors. It may be too late to consider it at the winter meeting later this year, but there’s plenty of time to get it on the agenda for next spring, and it could be implemented as early as next fall.

Let’s give this a try.


PHOTO: High School Highlights writer, Earl Vaughan Jr.


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