Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

April 23, 2014

WVSSAC proposal would permit year-round instruction

BLUEFIELD — Changes may be coming soon to high school sports in West Virginia. The West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission (WVSSAC), governing authority of scholastic sports in the Mountain State, recently approved a measure that would allow basically year round coaching of prep athletes. The measure awaits a vote by the state board of education.

Locally coaches have mixed thoughts on the measure, but all agree that it is something being done in other states and by not doing it, Mountain State athletes are at a disadvantage when competing against out-of-staters with regard to recruiting, development and in games.

“I think it’s extremely important these young athletes have adequate and proper training year round, which they get through the employed coaches of the local boards of education,” said Princeton High School head boys basketball coach Ernie Gilliard. “I think this is long overdue, simply because our kids have to compete to be recruited on the national level. All of the other states have already passed unlimited coaching of their kids in the off-season.

“This is going to level the playing field somewhat for our kids. I’m really pleased that the WVSSAC made the right decision. It is the right thing to do.”

Currently in West Virginia teams have a three-week period during which coaches can directly work with players. Buster Large is head basketball coach at Bluefield High. The Beavers have won two straight state championships and have appeared in three consecutive title games.

“We’ve been doing this three-week period the last four or five years. It’s a great opportunity to be associated and work with your players, but the kids also need time off. I feel like they need time to rest their body,” Large said.

“We basically work year round anyway, whether it be weight lifting and conditioning, camps, or skills in the summer. I’ve been very satisfied with this three-week period that normally starts the last week of May and goes into June.”

BHS football coach Fred Simon, who has won four state titles in his tenure is not in favor of the measure, but if it is enacted, he will accept it.

“Year round would be OK, but personally, being a double-A school, I want players to choose other sports too,” Simon commented. “I wouldn’t mind having a bit more time in the summer, but if it goes year round we’ll work with the other sports and try to get our time in.”

With school beginning the same day as practice this year in Mercer County, Princeton head football coach Randy Peek favors the proposal.

“I support it. This year teachers start school Aug. 4 and the first practice date is Aug. 4, so for us there is no such thing as two-a-days anymore,” Peek said. “Practice will be right after school every day. That cuts out a lot of conditioning and getting the kids ready. If they don’t come in conditioned it’s tough on us.”

Gilliard sees the proposal as a benefit not only to coaches but for student athletes who will receive additional instruction.

“It gives coaches like myself an opportunity to work on fundamental situations and make our kids fundamentally sound and situation wise,” Gilliard send. “I think this is a Godsend from the WVSSAC and we are glad they have woke up, so to speak, and realize the importance to the student athletes.

“There is talent in West Virginia but we cannot continue to handcuff it by having so many rules in place that would not allow our kids the proper training.”

Large, who is also the head football coach at Bluefield Middle School, said the new proposal could pose a problem, but it’s about creating a level playing field between West Virginia and other states.

“It’s not easy coaching two sports any more, especially if one of them is a varsity sport,” Large commented. “We wrap up middle school football in late October and then there’s maybe a couple of weeks before high school basketball starts.

“However, if you look at Tennessee, they’ve been having spring football for years. They have hands-on experience with the players in full gear, just like a college. A lot of coaches in our state have been pushing for this and some coaches are against it, but me, personally, I’ve been very satisfied with that three week work period.”

It is expected that the state board of education will vote on the proposal at its May meetings.

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline.com

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