Kennedy's McKowen starts petition to get rid of 'seat belt rule'

Wants boys', girls' coaches to be allowed to stand during games

Kennedy head coach Jon McKowen yells during their game at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, December 20, 2013. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
Kennedy head coach Jon McKowen yells during their game at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, December 20, 2013. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

CEDAR RAPIDS – Six years of having the freedom to stand up from his bench and instruct his players has Jon McKowen fired up to be allowed to do it again.

The Cedar Rapids Kennedy boys’ basketball coach has begun a petition drive among his sideline brethren to eliminate Iowa’s “seat belt rule.” The decorum rule says coaches must stay seated at all times during games, with a couple of nominal exceptions, such as to congratulate their team on a good play or to substitute for a player who has fouled out.

Iowa is the only state with a “seat belt rule.” Others abide by a coaching box, the size of which is established by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

“I’m just trying to get us on the same playing field as everyone else,” McKowen said. “Being out of the state, you don’t realize the benefits of being allowed to stand and coach your team, teach your players. It simply makes for better basketball.”

A former Wapsie Valley prep whose father, Marty, is a hall of fame coach there, McKowen coached at Cedar Falls Northern University High before moving to Ottawa, Kan. He took the Kennedy job last year.

His petition is addressed to the Iowa High School Athletic Association and Iowa Girls’ High School Athletic Union and lists four reasons for the elimination of the rule: to make games like practices, to better communicate with players, to have “effective interaction with officials” and to be like the other 49 states.

In the two weeks since he introduced it via social media, McKowen said he has gotten 100 signatures “from Division I college coaches to junior high coaches.” He said he has the backing of the Iowa High School Basketball Coaches Association.


“The topic always comes up in the summer when we are working with our kids,” McKowen said. “We talk about that as coaches being our biggest frustration. There is no other sport in the nation where coaches have to sit down for games.”

McKowen said his hope is the IHSAA and IGHSAU will address the overwhelming desire of the coaches to have a coaching box instead of the seat belt rule by the end of this coming season.

“All we can do is let the state know what the schools want,” he said.

Here is a link to McKowen’s petition:

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