With the dog days of summer in session, and the start of high school football practices right around the corner, the Star Local Media sports staff recently deliberated a wide-ranging topic about the subject we report on year-round.
What are some things we would change about high school sports?
The ideas ran the gamut, from micro-level suggestion about tweaking the format of a specific sport, to big-picture subjects like implementing a new classification for the state’s largest schools.
The subject was discussed in abundance during Monday’s episode of the “Star Local Media High School Sports Podcast,” and here are just a few of the topics that were brought to the table.
Revamping soccer shootouts
Matt Welch: Considering the physical toll that a soccer match can take on an athlete, I’ve always found it odd that teams use a penalty-kick shootout to break a tie. I’m sure soccer purists will disagree, but there’s no getting around the element of luck that goes into executing a penalty kick, and although luck itself is a factor in all sports, it’s weighted a bit more heavily in a sequence where success can depend on whether a goalkeeper decides to dive left or right.
There’s a definite guessing game element to that exchange, and guesswork shouldn’t carry as much weight in deciding the outcome of a high-stakes soccer match, including at the high school level where state championships have literally been won on penalty kicks.
There’s a middle ground somewhere in there, so I’d be in favor of moving the ball back 5-10 yards in an effort to better balance the degree of skill between the goalkeeper and the shooter.
On a similar note, there needs to be uniformity across all districts as to how shootouts and points accrued in the standings are handled. Districts determine their own scoring systems, meaning three different districts can all conduct their schedules in three completely different ways.
Some districts, like 9-6A, opt against shootouts and simply award three points for a win and one for a tie, while others, like 10-6A, have had years where they determined their outcomes solely through wins and losses, breaking any ties with a shootout.
And then there’s the old 14-5A iteration with programs like Lake Dallas, Prosper, Little Elm and The Colony, where teams accrued points for wins, shootout wins and ties.
Considering teams all play under the same format in the playoffs, adhering to that consistency in the regular season seems reasonable.
Baseball postseason structure
Taylor Raglin: This is something I’ve been chewing on for a long time – having played baseball in high school, the need for a change to the UIL’s postseason structure for the sport and its sister sport in softball was apparent then, and my opinion hasn’t changed.
The current system for deciding whether postseason combatants play a three-game set or a single-game playoff is an unnecessarily complicated one that takes away from what makes the sports unique at the high school level – the presence of those series.
Moreover, particularly for a team like this season’s iteration of McKinney Boyd, the state-tournament format of one-and-dones deciding the victor is an unfair one. The Broncos made their postseason living this spring on resiliency, winning games two and three in four consecutive series to advance to state, a path that wouldn’t have been possible had they played a single game in any of those rounds.
The back-and-forth, there’s-always-tomorrow nature of the stick-and-ball sports is what makes them special, and altering the postseason format to one with series in each round would not be an especially difficult change. Have teams play series at agreed-upon sites through the state semifinals, then host state-championship series over the course of a week at two or three parks in the Austin area.
Consistency is needed in the battle for supremacy on the diamond, and it shouldn’t be a tall order to bring it to UIL competition.
The shot clock
Bryan Murphy: Eight other states have adopted the shot clock in high school basketball, including powerhouse states such as New York and California.
Texas has emerged as a producer of elite basketball this century, so why has it also continued to use such an archaic style of basketball that still has not implemented a shot clock?
Multiple times last season while covering games on the hardwood at both the 4A levels with Celina and amongst District 9-5A, I saw various instances where the ball was held for, at times, longer than a minute before a play towards the basket was made.
The five-second rule in high school hoops is supposed to prevent teams from being able to hold on to the ball for extended periods of time, but I believe that is simply just a Band-Aid for a more serious dilemma.
The NBA utilizes a shot clock of 24 seconds while the NCAA has trimmed its down from 35 to 30 seconds just a few years ago. Perhaps, a 24- or 30-second clock may not be the best idea for high school players, but I don’t see why a 40-second clock shouldn’t be a realistic option in today’s game for both the boys and girls game.
Rotating state football championship venues
Kendrick E. Johnson: As someone who grew up and played high school sports in Region II, I have a high affinity for all Metroplex schools to do well in state title games against schools across the state, no matter the sport.
Despite the Metroplex’s domination in football state title games over the last few years, I feel the UIL should look into consistently rotating the location of the state title games. Under the current model, where AT&T Stadium or Cowboys Stadium have hosted the state championships all but one year since 2010, Dallas-area schools have a clear advantage with minimal to no travel time required before playing in what will be the biggest game of most of those kids’ lives.
On the other hand, they are often playing a school from Houston, Austin or San Antonio, which is having to travel four to five hours the day before the game, and that’s only if they come from an affluent school district. Just this past season, reigning Class 6A Division I state champion Galena Park North Shore traveled four hours the day of its state title game before playing Duncanville.
For further proof rotating locations would make the playing field neutral, remember this: In 2015, the last time the state title games were in Houston, schools from the Metroplex went 0-4, which is the last time Dallas was shut out in state title games on the gridiron.
Taking coach-athlete workouts a step further
Devin Hasson: One of the most asked questions concerning high school athletics is how much is too much when it comes to organized workouts.
As it stands now, coaches are allotted a certain amount of time to work with players prior to the start of a season, and obviously through the duration of that run. After this point, they are limited to offseason strength and conditioning programs, but are prohibited from specific skill training.
This summer, the UIL instituted a new rule that allows coaches to conduct two hours of specialized training per week during the summer, which potentially could add up to 18 practices.
I would like to see them take it even further in the future.
I believe it would be beneficial to all parties to extend the amount of time teams are able to work together during the school year. And though still voluntary, it would also be positive to expand the summer workout schedule, as well.
Let’s face it – many athletes spend their offseason staying busy with club teams and on the tournament circuit, so they are not just taking time off. Those commitments might interfere with high school sports activities, but I feel it would be beneficial to at least give them extended options as to when coaches can offer skill-specific work with players.