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A Look at the High School AD's Role in a Town's Youth Sports Leagues

Should an athletic director have any influence with programs that feed into his schools?

I feel the need to disclose that this is Day 5 of being in Diet Soda Detox. It’s not an easy place to be. I’m drinking Polar Seltzer with Natural Pomegranate Flavor instead of my Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi, and I’m cranky and have the jitters. So before getting started I’d like to thank Patch for letting me continue my writing obligations during this difficult period.

This week’s Splenda-free topic: High School Athletic Directors (ADs) and their relationship to youth sports (pre-high school).

The subject was presented to me in an email from a reader in a town where they are in the process of interviewing candidates for the AD position.

The president of one of the town’s youth leagues sent a message out to the parents of past and present players. Here are the highlights of that email:

“This afternoon, (the high school principal) sent out a message to parents within the high school asking for input on the things that they want to see in the new Athletic Director which is currently in the Job search stages. This is significant and all parents that can attend the meeting (date) at the high school should. Even if you don’t presently have a child in high school it does and will effect (sic) your children. This position has significant effect on the youth programs. It is important that this hire has a strong business sense, enthusiastic spirit, independent thinker and willingness to push our athletic programs at all levels to produce competitive teams at the high school level.”

Many parents in the community believe that there should be no connections between a high school athletic director and the youth programs in town. I honestly had never given the subject much thought until reading the email. So I began thinking about the positive and negative effects of such relationships.

Where should the line be drawn? The youth football league in my town is unique because we have players from several towns in the area. It’s more of a regional setting and all of the players are redrafted each year and play against other teams in the league. One’s hometown is not a factor in team placement.

I’m not sure that an AD from a school that hosts other town’s players would have much interest in supporting a league set up in this manner. Many of the league’s players end up as stars on high school teams in neighboring towns. To me it’s what makes the league great and unique. It brings together people who normally would not be playing, coaching, or “working” together. Pre-high school youth leagues are mainly products of the individual towns and rarely cross borders.

But I’m drifting away from the subject just a bit. I know that high school coaches of almost every sport will hang around and watch some of the youth practices to look at players and show their support for the kids. I’ve always admired a coach for doing that.   

My town’s varsity basketball coach and his players held a clinic for youth program-aged kids and their coaches recently. He told the kids it was their way of giving back to the community. I love that. To me there is nothing that compares to watching older players mentoring the younger kids.

I also know that in many towns the high school coaches meet with the youth coaches to discuss what they would like to see in a player once he gets to the high school level. They may even suggest using some of the same plays or formations that are used by the high school teams. Again, I never gave it a second thought.

Maybe the fact that the high school has its eyes on a youth league puts a little more pressure on its coaches to win and ultimately use the better players to do so. Now we are falling back into the same trap that I’ve been suggesting we crawl out of.

 I can see it becoming an issue if the youth program becomes a feeder to the high school and focuses more on the 7th and 8th graders headed to the next level while not paying as much attention to those that will end their careers in the sport after their last game as a youth player.

So we need to break this down a little. Is it just the AD who should not have opinions or (for lack of a better word) interests in the youth programs or should it trickle down to the coaches and high school players as well?

Ladies and Gentleman, I ask you for your feelings (nothing more than feelings…) on the subject. How much interaction and influence should a high school AD and his programs have on the town’s youth sports programs and why? There are compelling arguments on both sides of the fence. I’d like to get off the top of it before I go into complete Splenda withdrawal.

Greg March 09, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Ron or think about Manchester, East Catholic, The technical school and Manchester High.
W Smith March 11, 2012 at 04:25 PM
In the State of CT, there are rules and regulations involving high school AD's and coaches and contact with younger than HS age athletes. The CIAC is the governing body. See their website and handbook for details. As a former HS coach, I believe that the CIAC prohibits AD's and coaches from "tampering" with middle schoolers prior to HS entry. Strictly interpreted, it bans "contact". That being said, the CIAC'S enforcement is minimal at best and relys on HS's to self report violations for the most part. My personal opinion is that AD's should have absolutely no role in youth athetics. They have their job to do at their school and they bring no benefit to the travel/youth teams.
Ron Goralski March 12, 2012 at 01:08 AM
I've been reading the manual. There are rules that apply but coaches are not banned from having contact with students below 9th grade.
joe02 March 13, 2012 at 01:25 AM
well smith, if that was the cause then Somers HS boys BB coach should be in hot water, the AD ?, the AD in windsor locks seems to do the bare minimum with the HS sports, behind on banners, updating max preps/going on 3 years now, and too busy hugging the female students.
Perry Robbin March 13, 2012 at 03:06 AM
Coaches and ADs are in fields that have a high turnover rate compared to other professions – they have jobs that are performance based. They are, on some level, looking out for their livelihoods and their families when they do things like scout youth players or get involved in youth programs. High school coaches and ADs have a better chance of keeping their jobs when they can find good players, get them involved and interested early, and get them into a system. This doesn't make excessive, negative involvement by ADs and coaches in youth sports excusable. But it does show a different side of the conflicts and issues that people in those professions have to deal with.

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