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Thread: An Open and Snarky Letter About Undue Influence

  1. #1
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    An Open and Snarky Letter About Undue Influence

    Dear CIF-Southern Section,

    Thank you for bringing up the rules on undue influence. Here are some red flags for schools that might be breaking the rules:

    1. When a small private school's girl's C team runs sub 1:40 in the 4x200, you might want to check into that.

    2. When a school's football team is comprised almost completely of athletes that did not go to a surrounding middle school and they aren't a private school, you might want to check into that.

    3. When a team is comprised of athletes from all over and they all played on the same club team which happens to be coached by that same coach, you might want to check into that.

    4. When a school has 100 athletic transfers a year transferring in, you might want to check into that.

    5. When a school's parents are sending out hand written letters encouraging athletes to come to their school, you might want to check into that.

    6. When a team consistently wins CIF-SS titles with talent levels nobody else has. Ever. You might want to check into that.

    7. When a school's coaches are seen consistently talking with middle school parents at youth football games, and then those kids miraculously end up at that coach's school, you may want to look into that.

    8. When a school sends a van many miles from school to pick up kids that just happen to be state champion level athletes to come to their school, you might want to check into that.

    9. When an athletic director encourages their coaches to go out and get good players and does everything he can to ensure their eligibility to play, you might want to look into that.

    In all seriousness though, if you are forming a sub committee to look into the problem then maybe they can start using a little common sense as to which programs are blatantly cheating and which ones are not. If you are serious about solving this problem, start by creating lists of teams that need to be watched and evaluated (start with teams that win a lot or that have tremendous standout individuals every year, then look at where those kids went to middle school, which club teams they were on going into middle school, etc. Next add schools that have a lot of transfer paperwork each year...) At the end of the list, there will only be a certain number of schools left to truly investigate. Investigate those schools without anyone asking you too. It can't be that hard to take a roster and find out what middle school each athlete went to. That would be a great place to start. In the end, actually do something about it if cheating is involved (not allow athletes to transfer to that school for x number of years, no playoffs for that school, recommendation for replacement of the school's athletic director to their principal or school board, etc.).

    I and many other coaches out there would love to see CIF start to even the playing field on transfers. We have arguably the BEST section in the country with amazing people working for the CIF, it would be great if we enforced the rules. Money should not be used as an excuse to keep our section running properly. If it is important, which this is, then finding the money is easy to do by changing some priorities.

    Thank you,

    Coach Soles
    ----------------------------
    Doug Soles
    Head XC & Track Coach
    Great Oak High School

  2. #2
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    Amen!
    Liam Clemons
    Director of Cross Country
    Head Distance Coach
    Trabuco Hills High School
    D-1

  3. #3
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    Since I don't have Facebook and therefore cannot respond to the article on the front page, I will post here.

    Until the CIF-SS offices decide that recruiting is a punishable offense, it will continue to happen. If you have been a coach in the SS for more than a couple of years then you can probably point to several programs that would at minimum be suspect. However, this is a similar situation to the use of PEDs in sports and the coverage by the media and those on the inside. We all know that reporters and beat writers knew about players doing things but did not report because of some sort of unspoken honor code or for fear of being ostracized by the group they are trying to get close to. The coaches hear things and many know things but very few will speak out about other coaches that we must deal with on a weekly basis. It is a very difficult issue to get proof for but we hear things and can see the results of recruiting. Unless CIF deems it important with dedicated money and punishment, not just a piece of paper and un-enforced rules, nothing will change. In fact, once more coaches notice that nothing is done to punish or even dissuade the top offenders, the problem will continue to grow with a long line of "If they are doing it, I need to try to keep up."
    Are coaches willing to call out violations/violators? Will said coaches be reprimanded by their own schools for making them look bad because the coach is trying to report violations? Will the CIF actually enforce its own rules? (We hear over and over that the CIF is not an enforcement agency and that it is up to the individual schools to do something but the schools defer to CIF in a useless cycle)
    Keith Chann
    Chemistry teacher
    XC Fan
    Rubidoux High School

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    Three Trees,

    I'm assuming your post is saying from a parent's perspective in summary "Is it fair to leave great kids at bad schools with bad coaches? Why shouldn't they transfer to find the best position for them and their future?"

    As a parent myself, I get that. A couple things to think about:

    1. If your kid is good, why not have them become the foundation for success at their school?

    2. No parent support for the coaches? Why don't you be the person that organizes/creates the booster group? The person that calls all of the other parents and gets them involved. The person that stands up and says that you will support them and their vision.

    3. Your coach isn't good? What have you done to support that coach? Are you raising money to help the team afford better uniforms, better meets, more assistants, team camps? Are you encouraging your coach to go to LA84 clinics? Do you nicely offer to go with them so you can all learn and improve? Do you volunteer as an assistant? Do you help the coach call all incoming 9th graders and encourage them to join the team?

    At the end of the day, transferring is the easy route for your child. Why not challenge them to be the person that changes the culture of the team/program/school? Why not teach your child to be the leader that the team needs to be successful? At the end of the day all parents must take responsibility for their child's school and the success or failures that happen there.

    Being on an all-star team is fun, winning is fun, but does it teach your child the right lessons? Does it teach them to be a leader? I would call Lebron James a success, but I would never call him a leader. A leader would have stayed in Cleveland.

    I've taught at one of the lowest performing schools and the highest one in our county, and great people were still great at both places.

    Doug
    ----------------------------
    Doug Soles
    Head XC & Track Coach
    Great Oak High School

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Soles View Post
    Three Trees,

    I'm assuming your post is saying from a parent's perspective in summary "Is it fair to leave great kids at bad schools with bad coaches? Why shouldn't they transfer to find the best position for them and their future?"

    As a parent myself, I get that. A couple things to think about:

    1. If your kid is good, why not have them become the foundation for success at their school?

    2. No parent support for the coaches? Why don't you be the person that organizes/creates the booster group? The person that calls all of the other parents and gets them involved. The person that stands up and says that you will support them and their vision.

    3. Your coach isn't good? What have you done to support that coach? Are you raising money to help the team afford better uniforms, better meets, more assistants, team camps? Are you encouraging your coach to go to LA84 clinics? Do you nicely offer to go with them so you can all learn and improve? Do you volunteer as an assistant? Do you help the coach call all incoming 9th graders and encourage them to join the team?

    At the end of the day, transferring is the easy route for your child. Why not challenge them to be the person that changes the culture of the team/program/school? Why not teach your child to be the leader that the team needs to be successful? At the end of the day all parents must take responsibility for their child's school and the success or failures that happen there.

    Being on an all-star team is fun, winning is fun, but does it teach your child the right lessons? Does it teach them to be a leader? I would call Lebron James a success, but I would never call him a leader. A leader would have stayed in Cleveland.

    I've taught at one of the lowest performing schools and the highest one in our county, and great people were still great at both places.

    Doug
    Now there's a Five Star post right there!

    Thanks, Mr. Doug Soles!
    "Cross-country is an individual sport. Succeeding in cross-country is a team sport!"

  6. #6
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    I think there is a big difference between outright cheating and coaching inaptitude.
    Albert Caruana
    Crystal Springs Uplands School

  7. #7
    My goodness! I'll need to pack a lunch and be sure to read this one later today. Thanks for your extensive input!
    Quote Originally Posted by ThreeTrees View Post
    Doug,

    I echo the thought. That was a Five Star post. Every once in a long while you get a post that is thought-provoking and insightful. Youíre an excellent coach and clearly a very caring, thoughtful and perceptive person. So please, forgive my indiscretions. We both originally made light of a weighty issue, one that to me is very near and dear for so many reasons. This particular CIF issue implicates so many other important issues like discrimination, disabilities and public funding that I could go on for hours.

    Most coaches look at this issue from only one perspective and fail to grasp the real struggle between the education (sports) establishment and the students (athletes). They typically frame it as a ďme-firstĒ issue. But thereís a fairly significant referential issue here, and coaches seem to only look at it from their perspective. Try looking at it from other perspective and you may begin to question who the "me" is in this "me-first" picture.

    Let me give you an extreme illustration of the issue. A fifth grade girl has shown tremendous promise in a particular discipline. She can attend her local public school where they have an honors track, and she will simply move along with the other kids in her class. However, the neighboring public school (not more than 5 miles away) has some innovative educators. If she attends the neighboring school she automatically skips a grade in this discipline. No petitioning necessary. Her parents dearly want her to attend the local school (her friends go there, they support local public education, and itís so close to home). She's been advanced in this area for a very long time. Until now they've managed to find other ways to challenge her, but schools take on a greater role from middle school on. So they respectfully discuss with the local school the option of skipping a grade in this discipline like she could at the neighboring school. The school is adamantly opposed. They are absolutely not set up for it. They have a way of doing things, and that's absolutely, positively, not the way they do things here. And they are so certain of the detrimental effects that no matter how many meetings with the parents and tests the kid takes, the school is not budging. Believing the local school is still the best option, the parents go along. They try to make it work. They hope that she will be challenged. But it doesn't and she isn't. She attends the local school and is bored beyond tears. The school is intransigent on the matter, and it affects her so negatively that there is little option but to transfer. She does. And fortunately she knows so many kids at the neighboring school that it's not an issue. Fast forward 6 years. She ends her high school career with 5s on the four AP tests in this discipline and she completes 6 college courses in this subject, all taken at 2 of the premier universities in the nation. Half of the college courses are upper division classes against college juniors and seniors, and sheís getting the top marks. The girl is accepted to a top-5 university in the nation in this discipline and she can start at the graduate level.

    Interesting story, yes? Amazing yet, it's a true story. There's even a postscript to the story for the original school. Two years after she transferred, the first school adopted a policy like the neighboring school of advancing kids that show promise in this discipline. The original intransigence of the school was a little misplaced.

    I'm not sure if the story is inspiring or just sad. She had to overcome incredible odds and immense institutional bias. The fact is, had she followed the lead of the first counselor thereís a 50% chance she would have attended a very good state college, but just as likely she would have attended a very good community college. A university, let alone a premier university, wasn't even in the cards.

    Did she make the right choice? Whoís to say? She thought so. She was truly inspired. Did the first counselor have the right to stand in her way? Did the counselor really know so much about this discipline that there was only one correct path (her path) that the kid should follow? Did she know so much that other counselors in the land lined up just to hear her wisdom? Was she an Olympic-caliber counselor? Not really. She was just your typical counselor who was doing her job and naturally, thought she was right. And the school stood 100% behind her.

    Thereís nothing magic in that story. Although the facts are extreme, that story applies to tens of millions of kids and parents. This is where I draw the line on the school-choice and transfer discussion. Most coaches (present company excepted) are not Olympic-caliber coaches that kids line up to play for. They are your typical coaches, simply doing their jobs. I donít find it particularly surprising that on a few occasions this means they become impediments to a kidís passion or success. But not all great students (or athletes) can overcome those odds. If youíre a great quarterback (say, a former NFL quarterbackís son), do you stay at a school where you may not start or may wind up handing the ball off to incredibly gifted backs, do you take your chances that all will magically work out, or do you transfer to a southland powerhouse where you can learn from an incredibly gifted quarterback coaching staff and it results in your receiving a scholarship from a top tier college.

    I donít mean to trivialize the difference between athletics and academics. Academics are clearly far more important, and many coaches will dismiss the analogy and say it has no application to sports. But we both recognize that to some kids, sports can mean everything. Itís where they see and make friends. Ask most athletes and theyíll tell you they care more about their sports class than they or almost anyone could ever care about a history class. Many athletes spend 4 years x 40 weeks x 3 hours with a coach. Typically itís more than 2,500 hours over their high school career with a coach. Compare that with a mere 100 hours with another teacher (perhaps 200 if itís a yearlong course). When you add in the life lessons that a coach can impart, itís easy to recognize the importance of athletics (and of a particular coach) to the athletes and why athletes care so much about their coach.

    This really is not about a school (or coach) thatís bad. I donít think itís necessary to make inherently subjective or judgmental calls to make the point. I don't think anyone would disagree that the girl made the right move in transferring. I also don't think that the counselor was bad. She was simply misinformed. Misdirected maybe. The story was about a school (or coach) that was an impediment to the kidís passion or success. In my illustration, had the first school simply let her advance to the next grade, she would have succeeded. Because youíre right, great students (athletes), if given the opportunity, will be stars no matter where they go. But the operative language there was "given the opportunity." In my illustration, the first school actually put up roadblocks. They were impediments to her passion and success.

    How many coaches can appreciate the analogy? Even you, a very bright and caring coach, frame the issue in terms of the school having a ďbad coach.Ē I donít. I donít even assume that the coach had become an impediment. I assume that the athlete needs something different (for whatever reason). I think itís a travesty when the kids leave their local community. It evidences a failing in the system. But I also think thereís absolutely no rational or justifiable reason to stand in their way.

    I see a lot parallels in the above story to this CIF issue. Coaches frame it as a "me first" issue, but step back for a moment. Take a deep breadth. Consider the issue for more than a day or two. Really analyze who is the "me" in this picture. You may just be surprised.

    All the best this season,
    "Cross-country is an individual sport. Succeeding in cross-country is a team sport!"

  8. #8
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    Regarding this issue, I was once in a conversation with a JC Football Assistant and we got in a discussion regarding this issue. His observation about a local public school power that sent players to his program was that it was amazing to him how many of this school's athletes did not list home cities that were even in the school district of said high school. This is annually in the CIF Playoff's and in contention for Division Championships in fb.


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    However you justify it, the fact of the matter is that recruiting is still illegal in high school. So, if teams are out there actively recruiting students, they are cheating.
    Albert Caruana
    Crystal Springs Uplands School

  10. #10
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    Three Trees,

    I think there are many valid points about letting parents and athletes choose the school at which they attend. Many people recently have felt this is the best way to do it. Charter schools have been pushed in many areas as the solution to the public school system, unfortunately many have failed in the first couple of years. It is easy to ponder an idea and come up with a solution for such scenarios, but as charter schools are showing, something that sounds good on paper or in your head doesn't always fix a problem.

    First off, recruiting athletes to move from one school to another is cheating. Not because we are power hungry or offended coaches, but because it is against the rules. Those rules were in play a long time before I showed up in California, and I'm sure they will be here for many years after I'm gone. Why do those rules exist? Because athletics were created and are used as an educational component in the public school system. They are not a career goal avenue in the school, although some kids can certainly use them that way if they have the physical ability. They are there to teach athletes honor, loyalty, sportsmanship, and teamwork. I think the bigger question is do we stay with CIF and FOLLOW their rules, or do we scrap the system and go to a club based system. In a club system, only the best coaches and athletes would survive.

    Club System:
    -Athletes choose their teams and coaches.
    -Parents would pay at least a couple thousand a year in team fees (limiting participation to athletes that can afford to pay to play).
    -Athletes would come in and out of different club teams on a regular basis trying to find the right fit. Loyalty becomes a thing of the past.
    -Top end performances in the sport theoretically should improve as teams become more competitive.
    -Any athlete can be on the team, even if they are failing all of their classes or have dropped out of HS altogether.

    High School System:
    -More athletes are able to compete in this system.
    -The sports tend to be way cheaper to participate in with fundraising and donations running more and more programs.
    -Athletes tend to be stuck with the coaching staff provided by the school, which may not always be a perfect fit.
    -Loyalty to one's school where they are already getting an education is important.
    -Athletes learn how to work together for one common cause (the success of their school) which creates school pride.
    -Top end performances stay at current levels.
    -The sports are tied into the child's education, so grades and attendance at school matter greatly in their eligibility.
    -Higher level of TEAM buy in vs. club where the athletes will just leave if they don't get the position/roster spot/playing time they think they should. Teamwork for these athletes is taught and used.

    I work with many club soccer players and am constantly amazed at the movement from team to team trying to find a good fit. Parents push for what they want to see and bail on the team if they do not get it. Teams disolve and reform as other entities all the time based on available athletes and politics. When many of these club athletes try out for a high school team, they get placed in lower divisions than they expect or get cut. Why is the club coach keeping them on? Money. In a club system every athlete is money in their pocket. It is hard to challenge kids when you are afraid you will work them too hard and they might quit...Money runs club, not ethics, not loyalty, not education.

    Ultimately, if we were to scrap CIF and go to 100% club system, no holds barred on recruiting and who we coached it would be better for some coaches and athletes and way worse for many more. I would make a lot more money than I currently do coaching, that is for sure if we went to a club system. People would have to pay me what I am worth, not a generalized stipend that doesn't take into account team success, number of years coaching, etc. Ultimately, I currently coach in CIF and Club during the year and I can tell you the kids perform a lot better in their HS uniform. Why? They care about their school. I'm sure it isn't that way everywhere, but I think it is a lot more than many realize. Do you think learning loyalty and teamwork are important? I know I want my children focused on them in their education more than their athletics.

    I personally do not think that opening up HS athletics to an open recruiting system would improve what we currently do. If I were thinking "Me-first" I would want it to move to club for the money. I prefer to keep the system the way it is because in the long run I believe it will be the most beneficial to the most kids and their education.

    Doug
    ----------------------------
    Doug Soles
    Head XC & Track Coach
    Great Oak High School

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