Prep Sports

Let school districts decide coaching contact

Working with athletes out of season a good option

Cedar Rapids Kennedy girls’ basketball coach Tony Vis gives instructions during practice in 2012. Should coaches be able to work with athletes out of season? (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Kennedy girls’ basketball coach Tony Vis gives instructions during practice in 2012. Should coaches be able to work with athletes out of season? (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Editor’s note: Mike Winker, 53. is the former activities director at Cedar Rapids Xavier High School. He now is in his second year as a lecturer at the University of Iowa. He teaches in the Sport and Recreation Management Program, heading up the certificate program for SRM students to become activities administrators in Iowa high schools.

By Mike Winker, community contributor

Is it time to change the rules in Iowa concerning high school coaches working with their athletes out of season?

Coaches may work with their athletes during the summer months from June 1 until fall sports practices officially begin in early August.

Participation by athletes must be “voluntary” during the summer “offseason” workouts and should not conflict with high school softball and baseball practices or games. Once fall practices begin, coaches of teams that do not compete in the fall season may not have individual or team workouts or practices with their athletes.

There are many reasons for the current coaching contact rules. Allowing the sports in season to be the priority is a major concern. Many administrators and coaches also believe having strict non-contact rules ensures fairness between schools and helps to “equal the playing field” for high school teams. Unfortunately, these rules also can lead to inexperienced coaches mistakenly violating the rules as well as experienced coaches bending or violating the spirt of the rules.

Students who participate in school-sanctioned fine arts such as music and drama, as well as most club activities, do not to follow the IHSAA/IGHSAU out-of-season non-contact coaching rules. For example, a band instructor may give individual lessons to a student any time of the year. Teachers do not have rules restricting when they can give students additional academic instruction outside of “normal” class time.

If we believe co-curricular activities are a vital part of the overall educational process, why not let local school districts decide when coaches can give instruction to their athletes during the offseason. School districts already make decisions for their schools concerning policies about academic curriculum, class schedules, code of conduct, salaries, etc. Local school districts know what is best for their students and community, and could set policies for their coaching staffs.

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The IHSAA and the IGHSAU are the governing bodies in Iowa that make important decisions for high school athletics. Student eligibility and organizing postseason tournaments are two of the primary duties both organizations are in charge of, as well as countless other responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to investigate possible rules violations by coaches working with athletes when not allowed. It is important to note the IHSAA and the IGHSAU do not have full-time investigators and constantly receive emails and phone calls about schools and coaches violating the rules.

We are fortune in Iowa to have outstanding coaches and instructors from private for-profit organizations who train high school athletes. Allowing current high school coaches to give instruction to athletes “out of season” would be another option for students. Many families cannot afford to pay for private lessons and instruction. Families in rural communities may have limited access to private coaching instruction.

Our high school coaches teach athletic skills and are positive role models teaching our students important life lessons. Having more options for students to get better might be the best of both worlds.

Maybe allowing local school districts to decide as to what their out-of-season athletics polices will become will help to keep students in high school activities.

l You can contact Mike Winker at michael-winker@uiowa.edu

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