Monday, May 29, 2006

The Letter

To the Editor:

I would like to voice my strong opposition to HB 920 currently under discussion in the Missouri House Judiciary Committee. Having been an elite level swimmer in high school and college, and a swimming coach for 19 years (the last 9 at De Smet Jesuit High School), I feel that the public and the legislators of Missouri should look at this issue from a perspective other than a small minority of club swimmers and their parents. For several reasons, this bill is a bad idea and sends the wrong message to our young student athletes.

First, under the current situation, an elite level athlete and his or her parents have complete freedom to choose between either high school or club competition. Nothing in the Missouri State High School Activities Association by-laws prevents that athlete from training and competing seven days a week for five hours per day for twelve months a year if that is what they choose. Nothing in the MSHSAA by-laws prevents that athlete from seeking the finest outside coaching and competition available in the state of Missouri if that is what they choose. MSHSAA by-laws only govern an athlete who chooses to compete for their high school team. On the other hand, an athlete who chooses to compete for their high school team still has the option to train and compete with their club during the other nine months of the year. Moreover, MSHSAA has approved several outside “Olympic Development” competitions that a swimmer may participate in during the high school season.

Second, the passage of this bill would undermine the philosophical objectives of MSHSAA and high school sports. Interscholastic activities exist to complement the curricular program. These activities provide educational and social experiences for the student-athlete. High school sports promote school spirit, camaraderie, equitable competition, and individual sacrifice for the good of the team. High school sports do not exist to provide a training ground for Olympic athletes. I do not deny the fact that some of the “best athletes” forego the high school state swimming meet. But I would object to the suggestion that Missouri high school swimming doesn’t provide a positive, competitive and educational experience for all involved.

The very fact that Ms. XXXX and other elite level athletes wish to compete for their high school demonstrates that high school athletics must be doing something right. Despite the fact that club swimmers insist that they don’t receive proper training and instruction in high school, they are nevertheless willing to gut the philosophical objectives of MSHSAA for the opportunity to compete for their high school.

Finally, the passage of this bill would remove the educational authority that our schools and coaches have over student athletes and put the decision-making power in the hands of private clubs and the national governing bodies of our Olympic sports. MSHSAA would be powerless to enforce limits of any kind on athletes, regardless of the potential deleterious effects that might result. Coaches would be powerless to enforce team rules and regulations that might “infringe” on the “rights” of a student athlete. For example, I as a coach would be in violation of this law if I were to remove a swimmer from our team for skipping practice due to club participation.
In conclusion, I urge those who are interested and/or involved in high school athletics to read HB 920. I am confident that many of you will conclude that this bill is bad for Missouri high school athletics.

Respectfully submitted,

Kevin Fober,
Athletic Director and Swimming Coach,
De Smet Jesuit High School, 233 N. New Ballas Rd., St. Louis, MO 63141

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