Happy New Year! This is the day every year when most of us resolve to change an area or areas of our lives we aren’t completely satisfied with. These resolutions often run the gauntlet of losing weight, getting in better physical condition, getting more organized, handling finances better, etc. The beginning of a new year also allows for a time of reflection and a look forward, a chance to dream big. The canvas is blank and you’re Picasso. Barring any obstacles, what would you’re ideal world look like?
When I reflect upon the local sports world as it is, I see much good taking place and see very few things I would like to see changed. Having said that, it’s New Year’s and I have some big wishes for 2014 and beyond. So, in no particular order here are ten things I would like to see happen in high school and youth sports:
Return of the 50% Qualifying Rule in Heal Point Sports:
I’ve heard all the arguments regarding the inclusion of more teams into postseason tournaments. It’s become popular to attack the Heal point system, which has served the state well for over 50 years. Despite its quirks, I have yet to see anyone come up with a better system. Postseason play should be an award, a celebration for those who have achieved excellence in the regular season. Under the 50% rule, there was palpable drama during the final few weeks leading up to the tournament. Now the final few weeks only eliminate teams that are in the bottom third. We have definitely lost more than we have gained under the current format.
More Educated Fans:
I’ll be the first to admit, I do not have the entire basketball rulebook memorized and don’t know every nuance of the game. That being said, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been to a high school game, the ball is shot, someone is in the lane to rebound, who probably has been in the lane for than 3 seconds by this time, and some nut in the stands hollers out “3 seconds.” Or another popular call by the officials in the stands, when a taller player leaps over a smaller player with inside position, “over the back”. Over the back is not a foul, on the back is. I also like the response when a player control foul is called on the home crowd’s player, “he was moving” (admittedly, I have heard this from a number of coaches as well, and not those in the stands either).
An Emphasis on Fundamentals in Youth Sports:
The overall culture in youth sports, particularly basketball, is appalling. Too many coaches with inflated egos at the youth and middle school level put winning ahead of teaching basic skills and fundamentals. Having coached at the high school level for a number of years, I seriously had a number of players come into our program having never been taught the basics of man-to-man defense, how to screen and utilize a screen, or catch the ball properly.
Allow Time-outs to be Called by Players Only:
About ten years ago the rule was put in to allow head coaches to call time-out from the bench. To me this was one of the most asinine rules ever put into the game. How many times have we seen this scenario occur in the gym: late in the game, there are several players scrambling for the ball, the gym is loud, and the coach on the opposite end of the floor is screaming for a time-out. This has to be one of the most difficult rules to properly administer.
More Good Bands at Games
Nothing adds to the game atmosphere more in a gym than a good band, it definitely beats the alternative play lists that most teams warm up to when the band is not present. Unfortunately, few quality bands exist anymore, and the ones that do usually play at only a handful of games during the season.
A Standardized Method for Comparing Records
As I stated in my last column, there should be an agreed upon means of recognizing and comparing scoring milestones among different schools.
Increased School Enrollments and Revival of Eastern A
This really is a wish list, isn’t it. I miss the days of the Eastern Maine Class A tournament at the Bangor Auditorium following the B-C-D tournament week. Even over the past few years when Bangor hosted the event, my interest waned a bit as traditional teams such as Caribou, Stearns, and the like were being replaced by schools such as Oxford Hills, Mt. Ararat, or Lewiston. As it is now, basketball, save for a few all-star events, ends on March 1st this year, making for a really long month.
Continued Upgrades to Bangor’s Mansfield Stadium
Mansfield Stadium is one of the crown jewels for baseball in the state. The playing surface is immaculate, thanks to the dedicated efforts of field director Ron St. Pierre and his entire crew. This will be the stadium’s 23rd baseball season and virtually every season improvements are made to keep the stadium vibrant. Over the past few years, new fencing has been installed, a new sound system, and this year the ballpark is scheduled to replace the original scoreboard. As host of the Senior League World Series for the past twelve summers, I would like to see upgraded seating, as well as a new press box.
Change in Overtime Format in Play-off Soccer
Admittedly, I am not a big soccer fan. That being said, it seems a bit odd to have an entire season decided on penalty kicks following two fifteen minutes of sudden victory overtime. This is the equivalent to having the state basketball championship decided by a free throw shooting contest. Field hockey has a good way of handling their overtime situations by going 7 on 7 in the extra periods, followed by a series of penalty corners. These alterations still allow the basic elements of the game to be carried out. Soccer should look to go to a similar scenario.
Let the Students in the Stands Have Fun
Go to a local gym and do you notice what’s missing: fellow students cheering in the stands. I understand kids have many other responsibilities, such as after school jobs, other activities, etc. Part of the reason students are staying home from the games is that too many administrators, all in the name of good sportsmanship, which I support, are becoming czars and ruining the experience of the student sections. Obviously, a line has to be drawn, such as vulgarity or personal insults directed at an opposing player. But seriously, are we so thin-skinned that the “warm up the bus” chant elicits a scolding from a school administrator?
From the Press Box, I wish you a blessed and prosperous new year. Remember to dream big in 2014!