Originally created 12/25/05

Some parents question schools' team-notification process



Any child who's ever tried out for a school sport knows what it's like to approach the list posted on a locker-room wall.

Stomachs churn as their fingers move from one name to the next to see who made the team. Those who find their names might begin a touchdown dance.

For those who did not make the team, there are often no words of encouragement or bits of advice from the coach about how to improve for next year's tryout.

Some parents want to change how coaches in the Aiken County school district notify hopeful players. Rather than just posting names in the locker room, these parents want coaches to provide feedback and details about how the student can improve in the sport.

The quest for more feedback began this fall when an Aiken County eighth-grader failed to make the football team at his school. The pupil's parents hired Christian Spradley, a lawyer in Saluda, S.C.

He said the couple wished to remain anonymous because their son will be in high school next year and they simply want to focus attention on changing the current policy.

"It's more about the system, or lack of a system, than it is about just one child," Mr. Spradley said. The couple has not filed suit, he said.

During the course of his research, Mr. Spradley said, he interviewed six other families who said they were interested in some type of feedback when players don't make the team. He said these families also wished to remain anonymous.

Mr. Spradley said he has addressed the school board about altering its current policy.

District schools could follow a procedure in place at a number of Maryland and Virginia schools where, at the conclusion of a tryout, players are provided with numeric scores on each portion of the team tryout test, Mr. Spradley suggested.

"Some kind of criteria needs to be put in place so if a child doesn't make the team, you can say, 'You need to work on your catching. You need to work on your foot speed,'" Mr. Spradley said. "Something to give them some direction instead of just sending them away."

David Caver, an assistant superintendent who oversees middle school athletics for schools in Area One, said a selection process must be used for seventh- and eighth-grade sports because there is a limited number of coaches who can supervise players.

Mr. Caver said he favors the idea of coaches providing some type of feedback. Each school is permitted to set its own procedures, so the change doesn't necessarily have to come from the district level, Mr. Caver said.

Larry Murphy, a school board member, said the current method of player notification should be maintained. He even invoked the name of a 1960s football coach from the district who was known for being demanding, winning games and serving on the executive committee of the South Carolina High School League.

"I don't want to get in to telling the coach how to run their programs," Mr. Murphy said. "Bettis Herlong wouldn't have put up with that for two minutes."

Jack Hunter, a school board member, said he did not believe any changes to the current procedure were necessary.

"There is an element of a team that is hard to put down in numbers, that is hard to quantify," Mr. Hunter said. "Maybe they're not as good a jumper, maybe they're not the most athletic person on the field, but they fit into the team better and make the team better."

Mr. Spradley said athletic directors at some Maryland and Virginia schools review the final ranking of pupils based on their tryout test scores, which prevents favoritism.

"The athletic director looks at the written scoring system and makes sure that the kids that are being kept are based off the scores and not who the child's daddy is," Mr. Spradley said.

Reach Nathan Dickinson at (803) 648-1395, ext. 109 or nathan.dickinson@augustachronicle.com.