MSHSAA regulations troublesome, but necessary

MSHSAA+regulations+troublesome%2C+but+necessary

Derek Wang

photo 1
Senior Raymond Majors hits a backhand during one of last year’s matches. photo courtesy of Raymond Majors.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association has been a subject of ire for many athletes. These athletes say some of their rules, like the “Dead Period” regulation, which forbids the meeting of school coaches and their team members, limit the athletes’ abilities to improve over the season.

This affects tennis players especially, who nurse a special kind of enmity towards MSHSAA. Varsity athletes like sophomore Tess Lovig, a tennis team member,  say they are frustrated when they attempt to improve their skills but can’t be in contact with a coach. She said MSHSAA rules can also be hard to cope with because of their lack of clarity.

“[MSHSAA] makes it a lot harder to play tournaments during season,” Lovig said. “I’m always scared of breaking a rule without even knowing it.”

Unfortunately for the girls tennis team last year, former No. 3 and 2013 alumna Maddy Kayser was restricted from playing varsity for most of the season because she went to a tennis camp at a school in Texas the semester before the girls tennis season started, even though it was not during the Dead Period.

Principal Jennifer Mast, at the time athletics director, said Kayser had transferred to a high school in New Braunfels, Texas, in order to attend a tennis academy located there.

“It was a MSHSAA eligibility issue related to the fact that she transferred during the spring semester of 2012,” Mast said. “She went to a different school in Texas with a tennis academy that was a boarding school, and because she didn’t move there with her family, MSHSAA didn’t let her play varsity. It was not the tennis academy that was the problem, she could’ve gone there. But by MSHSAA by-law, any sort of transfer of schools needs to be accompanied by a full family move, but that didn’t happen. When she transferred back, by MSHSAA by-law we have to look at all of the rosters on which she was for the last 365 days. She had played tennis at Rock Bridge as a junior in the fall of 2011. She then goes to Texas in the spring of 2012, and then comes back for the fall of 2012. Well, in the past 365 days, she had been on the Rock Bridge tennis roster, and any roster she had been on in the last 365 days, according to MSHSAA by-law, if the move did not include the whole family, she had to have sub-varsity eligibility for the next 365 days.”

Mast said that even though Kayser was restricted from playing varsity, she continued to play junior varsity until she was able to appeal to MSHSAA, who granted the appeal by hardship, allowing Kayser to return to varsity status.

Lovig said without Kayser on the varsity lineup, it was more difficult to make it to the state competition.

“Last year, it really affected us when Maddy wasn’t allowed to play for most of the season,” Lovig said. “She was able to return after appealing to MSHSAA, who granted her request after she tried many times. We did pretty well throughout the season, but it definitely helped at state to have her there.”

MSHSAA also prohibits players from playing on varsity the year after they transfer schools. Senior Raymond Majors transferred from HHS to RBHS sophomore year in 2012. Although he was good enough, he was forbidden from playing on the boys tennis varsity squad, consisting of the top six players. At first, Majors was unhappy about the rule, but eventually understood why MSHSAA has the rule.

“I understand why you would disagree with the transfer rule,” Majors said. “But now that I’ve been through it all from my transfer from Hickman, I can see why people have to wait a year, because it’s not fair to transfer solely for sports and immediately play for varsity. Even though they restricted me from playing varsity my sophomore year, I would have played minimal varsity matches anyways because our team was so deep back in 2012.”

In addition to the Dead Period and transfer rules, players are not allowed to go to clinics where coaches train players in small groups. During clinics, each player receives more one on one time with their coach. These improve the players’ skills better and faster than in the 1-16 situation that occurs during season. Majors said that these smaller set-ups usually work better than the team practices.

“I think it’s an opportunity to focus on our team,” Majors said. “But it’s hard to not get that attention and critique from our coaches.”

MSHSAA communications director Jason West said that this was established to provide a break for athletes to rest and prevent them from burning themselves out. West said some student athletes were pushing themselves too hard, and exhausting themselves.

“The Dead Period rule was added a few years ago,” West said. “Over the years there has been an influx of activity at schools over the summer.  Everything from weight lifting days, team camps, volunteer practices were just some of the things programs were trying to fit in during the summer break.  These things started taking a toll on everyone involved.  Students had less and less time to enjoy their summer as they were being drawn in several directions.  Coaches and administrators had less and less time to enjoy their summer as they had to supervise teams and/or facilities.  The membership wanted to allow a period of time when there could be a break, where families could plan a vacation, or have some time where they are not driving from one practice or training session to another.  So now each member school must designate a nine day period during the summer where people can know there will be nothing at the school.”

However, not all sports are affected by these kinds of rules. Some sports have no problems about going to tournaments or going to training camps away from home. Cross country runner Evan Schulte said that MSHSAA Dead Period rules do not affect cross country runners very much.

“MSHSAA doesn’t not let people run,” Schulte said. “The week before practice we aren’t allowed on facilities or have contact with our coach but we can still meet at other places and run. This doesn’t really affect us anyway. Coaches can only have 25 days of contact during the summer months so we don’t see our coach very often anyway but we still know what workouts to do.”

AP World Studies teacher and cross country coach Neil Blackburn said although MSHSAA has a lot of necessary and beneficial rules, MSHSAA’s rule restricting the amount of contact between cross country coaches and their athletes is more detrimental than helpful, saying that if coaches could have more contact, the runners would be able to improve faster.

“I give [the athletes] an ideal training schedule for the off seasons,” Blackburn said. “Unfortunately, being completely realistic, things won’t be done as specifically as they should be, so when the kids are putting in time, if I could be present, I believe the efficiency in the kind of work they do would be maximized for the time they spend.”

Schulte said that having the coach there to help makes a big difference, especially during the season. Since they usually do more strenuous activities during season than off-season.

“Having our coach there during practice doesn’t really make a big difference, but it kind of depends.” Schulte said. “Off-season, we don’t do many hard workouts, but during the season with the hard workouts it’s good to have him there for encouragement and support. I wouldn’t be able to push myself the way I have been during the workouts without him there.”

However, Schulte said that those sorts of restrictive rules are not that big of a deal for Cross Country. He said that some rules affect the team’s performance and ability to improve.

“MSHSAA has a lot worse rules than those,” Schulte said. “When I went to Nike, they provided us with clothes, jerseys and shoes that we needed for the competition and they offered to let us keep them, but we had to check with our state rules, and MSHSAA only let us keep $100 worth of equipment, and we had to pay for the rest. Some other kids from other states just got to walk out with it.”

Some MSHSAA rules only pertain to sports with players who have different coaches at clinics outside of the school facilities. Nevertheless, Schulte, Lovig and Majors agree that most, if not all, of the MSHSAA rules do not benefit their team. However, without MSHSAA, there would not be any universal rules that school teams can follow.

“MSHSAA is an association of schools which voluntarily join,” West said. “Each member school has a say in what the by-laws cover, as well as what the Constitution of the Association says. Part of the reason a school joins the Association is to help ensure everyone in the Association is playing by a similar set of rules.”

By Derek Wang

Have you participated in a MSHSAA sport? Have you found any rules limit you?