High School Highlights

Frustrated officials quitting, games being canceled

18 Soccer and footAbout four weeks ago, we distributed an op-ed suggesting that inappropriate behavior by parents and other adult fans at high school sporting events was causing many officials to quit before they even reached two years on the job.

Although we received mostly positive support from this article, some people thought we went too far in telling parents to “act your age” and “stay in your own lane.” On the contrary, perhaps we should have been more direct.

Last week, one of our member state associations shared a resignation letter it had received from a 20-year veteran soccer official who had taken all the abuse he could handle. A portion of that letter follows:

“Soccer parents: you are absolutely 100 percent the reason we have a critical refereeing shortage and games are being cancelled left and right. And you are at least a part of the reason I’m done here. The most entitled among you are the ones that scream the loudest. And every time you do this, you tell your son or daughter the following:

“'I do not believe in you, I do not believe in your team, I do not believe in your collective ability to overcome your own adversity and you absolutely will not win and cannot do this without me tilting the table in your favor.'

 “On behalf of myself and so many other referees — and I say this with every ounce of my heart and soul — shut up about the referees and let your kids rise or fall as a team, as a family. Because the vast majority of you truly have no idea what you’re talking about, and even if you have a legitimate gripe about one play or one decision, you’re not fixing anything.”

 And if that wasn’t enough, last week the Eastern Panhandle Youth Football League in West Virginia released the following statement:

 “Unfortunately, it has come to the point that because of the abuse, negativity and utter disrespect shown to our officials from parents, coaches and most recently from our players, the Eastern Panhandle Officials Association president stated today that the association will no longer schedule officials for our league games at any field. This means effective immediately all remaining games are cancelled.”

This statement is from a youth league, which means the coaches are likely also parents of players, and the players are sons and daughters who are emulating their parents’ behavior.

So, no, our previous message was not too direct or emphatic. The kind of boorish parental behavior that compels a 20-year soccer official to quit cannot be allowed to continue. While we would hope that parents and other fans would embrace the concepts of education-based athletics by respecting the efforts of those men and women who officiate high school sports, that unfortunately is not occurring in some cases.

 As a result, schools must adopt and enforce a strict fan behavior policy. In soccer, a player receives a “yellow card” as a first warning for unsportsmanlike conduct. If the action occurs again, the player is hit with a “red card” and is ejected from the contest. Some schools have implemented a similar penalty structure for parents and other fans — not just at soccer games but all high school events. If the inappropriate behavior and verbal abuse of officials continues after one warning, the person is removed from the venue. There must be consequences for these offenders before we lose any more officials.

Most of the 7.9 million participants in high school sports are on the fields and courts every day to have fun and compete as a team with their classmates, and the 300,000-plus officials assist in that process. Now, if parents would let the players play and the officials officiate.

Scholar Athletes of the Week: 10/02/19

21 01 Ben LovetteBen Lovette
Gray's Creek• Football, swimming, golf• Senior
Lovette has a weighted grade point average of 4.31. He was a junior marshal and is a member of the National Honor Society. He is on the Gray's Creek Student Athlete Advisory Committee and helps with Buddy Football. He is a member of Future Farmers of America and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Hannah Sterling
Gray's Creek• Volleyball, swimming• Senior
Sterling has a weighted grade point average of 4.32. She is a member of the National Honor Society, the Future Farmers of America and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She also took part in her church's Vacation Bible School. 
Pictured from top to bottom: Ben Lovette, Hannah Sterling
21 02 Hannah Sterling

Club sports come with a hefty price tag

Recent articles have documented the rising costs of club sports, with one noting that about 62 percent of “travel ball” parents will go into debt to involve their kids in year-round sports.

​A USA Today article in 2017 suggested that travel baseball or volleyball could cost a family upwards of $8,000 a year, with soccer running about $5,000 on the high end. A study by TD Ameritrade suggested some parents were spending about $100 to $500 a month to fund their kids’ participation on a club team, with about 20% spending $1,000 a month.

​Why? In some cases — unquestionably the minority — students are in the elite category from a skills standpoint and could benefit from a higher level of competition in preparation for college. In most cases, however, it is a case of parents spending beyond their means with the hope that playing club sports will be the difference-maker in their children receiving an athletic scholarship to an NCAA Division I school.

​It is, in fact, true that an overwhelming majority of NCAA Division I athletes played club sports. According to an NCAA survey, 92%of women and 89% of men played club basketball, and 91% of women’s volleyball players competed on a non-school team in high school. At the other end, however, only 24% of football players competed on a club team.

​Herein lies the difference. There are more than 540,000 boys who played high school basketball last year and fewer than 6,000 who played basketball at the NCAA Division I level, where most of the scholarships are available. Stated another way, about 1% of high school boys basketball players will play at the NCAA Division I level. About 2.8% of the one million-plus boys in high school 11-player football will play at the Division I level.

​The answer? Parents should encourage their kids to play multiple sports for their high school teams and save the money they would spend on club sports for college tuition if scholarship money does not materialize. Even in those situations where students are charged a modest fee to participate, school-based sports remain an incredible bargain when compared to club sports.

In many cases, Division I football and basketball coaches are looking to recruit multiple-sport athletes. While there are a few sports where non-school competition is crucial, college coaches will find those athletes who excel in school-based sports.

​High school-based sports have more interest, more media coverage and more fans than club sports, and the kids have more fun because they are representing their team and their community.

​Playing one sport in the fall, another during the winter and yet another in the spring is the best route to future success — whether that success is on the playing field or court, or in a boardroom.

Earl's weekly predictions: 10/03/19

FootballDuring the month of October, the National Federation of State High School Associations observes National High School Activities Month.
Each week highlights a separate aspect of high school activities.
The current week is devoted to sportsmanship, fan appreciation and public address announcers.
The week of Oct. 6-12 focuses on the performing arts. Oct. 13-19 is for coaches, sponsors, advisors and officials.
The month wraps up Oct. 20-26 with community service and youth awareness week.
Karissa Niehoff, executive director of the National Federation, best summed up the important role high school activities play across the country.
“High school sports and activity programs provide one of the best bargains in our community and nation and will continue to do so as long as our nation supports them as an integral part of the education of our young people,’’ she said.
“Not only do these programs teach the more than 12 million young people who participate in them valuable life skills lessons, such as ethics, integrity and healthy lifestyles, they also provide the best entertainment value in our nation.’’
The record: 35-12
Last week was shaping up as a disaster after a 1-2 start on Friday and Saturday. Some close calls in Monday’s postponed games were threatening to push my record for the week under .500.
But most of the close calls went my way and I wound up with a 6-3 record which ran the total for the season to 35-12, 74.5 percent.
Cape Fear at Gray’s Creek - I think Cape Fear has shaken off the slow start it got off to and appears poised to get into the thick of the Patriot Athletic Conference race. 
Meanwhile, Gray’s Creek is having problems coming off the stunning upset at the hands of an E.E. Smith team that hadn’t won in its last 17 outings.
I definitely like Cape Fear in this one.
Cape Fear 28, Gray’s Creek 14.
E.E. Smith at Douglas Byrd - Everyone had been saying if E.E. Smith can correct a few mistakes they can get a win. That’s exactly what happened last week in knocking off Gray’s Creek.
I think the Golden Bulls will have a shot at two in a row against a Byrd team likely to be brooding over a tough loss to Pine Forest. 
E.E. Smith 22, Douglas Byrd 20.
Jack Britt at Lumberton - Look for Jack Britt to rebound quickly from its first loss of the season to a strong Scotland team.
Jack Britt 32, Lumberton 12.
Pine Forest at Westover - Westover is experiencing some tough times while Pine Forest finally came up for air last week in its win over Byrd. I look for the Trojans to continue heading in the right direction this week. 
Pine Forest 29, Westover 6.
Seventy-First at Hoke County - The Falcons are on a rare two-game losing streak, and even though Hoke is vastly improved, I have a hard time seeing Seventy-First losing three in a row. 
Seventy-First 24, Hoke County 18.
Terry Sanford at Overhills - The Bulldogs got a wakeup call at Rolesville last week. I look for them to return to Patriot Athletic Conference play this week with a win.
Terry Sanford 30, Overhills 12.
Open dates - South View, Fayetteville Christian.
Other games: Trinity Christian 31, Charlotte Christian 14.

Fayetteville lands NCHSAA volleyball championships

19 brian edkinsA state championship event headed to Fayetteville and an update on the complicated process of realigning the state’s high school conferences were the major topics of discussion at last week’s Region 4 meeting of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association held at the Cumberland County Schools Educational Resource Center.

NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker and members of her staff spent the morning discussing the business of the association and shared a variety of information with the athletic directors, coaches and superintendents in attendance. The region includes high schools in 11 counties in the Fayetteville area as far west as Richmond and Montgomery, north to Harnett and Lee and south to Robeson, Bladen and Columbus.

The biggest surprise of the day came when Tucker announced that this year’s NCHSAA volleyball state championships will be temporarily moving from their home at North Carolina State’s Reynolds Coliseum and coming to Fayetteville State University’s Capel Arena.

The Wolfpack has a women’s basketball home game scheduled Sunday, Nov. 10, against UNC-Wilmington that would have cut into the time needed to get Reynolds Coliseum ready for basketball the day after the volleyball championships.

The volleyball championships are scheduled Saturday, Nov. 9.

Tucker said the NCHSAA explored a variety of other places where they had previously held state championship events, but none of them were either suitable or available for the volleyball championships.

When the NCHSAA contacted Fayetteville State, the school expressed interest. Tucker said Fayetteville State has an away football game that day, at Winston-Salem State, and there were no other on-campus conflicts that would prevent hosting the volleyball.

“You go where you’re wanted and we are excited about the possibility,’’ Tucker said. “Capel Arena is a wonderful facility and we look forward to it.’’

Vernon Aldridge, student activities director of the Cumberland County Schools, said the school system has an excellent working relationship with Fayetteville State. Capel Arena is a regular home for the county’s high school swimmers and has also hosted both the NCHSAA Eastern Regional basketball tournament and the finals of the annual Cumberland County Holiday Classic basketball tournament.

“Anytime you get to host a state championship event it’s great for the local area,’’ Aldridge said. “We have a great working relationship with Mike King (assistant athletic director at Fayetteville State) that will allow us to put this on short notice.’’


The headache that is realignment of the NCHSAA’s conferences is about to begin anew after the association’s Board of Directors decided to put it on hold at its meeting last spring.

The NCHSAA got into the business of deciding what schools play in which league back in 1985-86 Tucker said when schools drew up their own leagues and left some member schools with no place to play.
Now, realignment is ordered by the NCHSAA bylaws every four years.

Because there was some potential for major changes in how realignment works, last spring’s board decided to delay the process to allow additional information about realignment to be gathered.

The initial step will be to create a special realignment committee which will number about 25 people from across the state who will come up with the official plan for realignment that will be presented to the full board of directors near the end of the process.

Schools had until the end of last week’s series of eight regional meetings around the state to submit potential names to serve on the committee from each region.

Region 4 has two representatives on the NCHSAA Board of Directors for 2019-20, Gray’s Creek athletic director Troy Lindsey and Cape Fear High School principal Brian Edkins.

They will work with the president and vice-president of the NCHSAA to narrow the list of nominees for the realignment committee from Region 4. When the committee is picked, each region only gets two members. Additional members on the realignment committee will come from the state coaches and athletic director’s associations and the state department of public instruction.

Tucker said a special meeting of the board of directors will likely have to convene in late February or early March of 2021 to hear the final report from the committee.

One of the major questions that the committee will likely have to wrestle with is whether to change the number of classifications the state has. For years the NCHSAA has operated with four classifications based on school enrollment: 4-A, 3-A, 2-A and 1-A.

The idea of adding a fifth classification for the largest schools, 5-A, has been discussed but never implemented.

Even if the committee thinks 5-A is an good idea, it can only suggest it to Tucker and the NCHSAA board. A change would require a call for a vote of the membership to decide if a fifth classification can be added, or if any change can be made in the number of classifications.

One important note Tucker added regarding the average daily membership figures is the numbers the NCHSAA gets from the State Department of Public Instruction that are the enrollment of each school in the state.
Tucker said the NCHSAA is guided, but not bound by, the ADMs in determining conference membership.

Other notes

Here are some other items of interest from Monday’s regional meeting:

• The sites have been determined for this fall’s NCHSAA football championship games. The 4-A and 4-AA will play at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium. The 3-A and 3-AA will play at North Carolina State’s Carter-Finley Stadium. The 2-A and 2-AA will be at Wake Forest’s Groves Stadium and the 1-A and 1-AA at Duke University’s Wallace Wade Stadium.
• For the 2018-19 school year, the NCHSAA assessed 154 penalties resulting in $63,950 fines with 11 teams winding up ineligible for the state playoffs. The list included seven football teams, three boys’ basketball teams and one girls basketball team.
To date in 2019, there have been 39 penalties with $16,150 in fines and one team ineligible for the playoffs.
• The NCHSAA is joining the number of state associations who are beginning to feel the squeeze on the availability of high school officials to call games. The average age of officials in the state is from 59 to 60. The NCHSAA noted that some states like Tennessee have resorted to playing high school football on multiple nights each week to spread games out because of the officiating shortage.
• Tina Bratcher, administrative assistant to Vernon Aldridge, was named the 2018 winner of the NCHSAA Region 4 Special Person award. The presentation was delayed a year because year’s meeting was canceled due to the hurricane.
• The NCHSAA has established an education-based athletics grant program for its member schools. Any person on the staff of an NCHSAA member school may submit an application for the grant.
The only criteria is that the money must be used for unmet needs facing the student athletes at a particular school.
The application is available at the NCHSAA website, NCHSAA.org, and can be found under “Fundraising and Grant Opportunities” in the School Central section of the website.
The deadline to apply this year is Nov. 30.

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