NIAA to adopt 'Dead' policy

There's no denying a concern exists on the demands that club teams and offseason programs have placed on today's high school athletes.

Another concern is the trend toward specialization where high school athletes concentrate on just one sport. The easy target to blame for this is the increased emphasis on club teams, which in my opinion is not always fair and oversimplifying the issue.

I believe just like anything else, club sports have there share of bad apples who do more harm than good. But I truly believe that most club coaches want to coexist with high school teams as best as possible. (Many of these club coaches are high school coaches themselves).

I've also seen everybody involved for the most part making an increased effort to reach a proper balance in the relationship between club teams, high school sports and their offseason programs so student-athletes aren't run into the ground 12 months a year.

With that in mind the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association has tentatively approved a policy designed to reduce the demands on student-athletes just a little bit. It's known as the "dead" policy and was first reported on by Chuck Hildebrand of

The NIAA board approved the policy at its meeting last month in which student-athletes would have to take a four-week break from a sport when the season ends. But the smartest move the NIAA board made was to delay the implementation of this policy to the 2007-2008 school year, giving the NIAA a year to make any needed adjustments to the policy.

Dr. Jerry Hughes, NIAA executive director, said the policy is based on one already in effect in the Washoe County School District. "That's where we got the idea from," Hughes said.

The policy would only be in effect during the school year. "Summers would not be affected," Hughes said.

That means spring sports would not be affected. Many swimmers are already in the middle of their competitive seasons away from high school during the spring and baseball and softball players begin their summer season before the school year even ends. The spring and summer schedules of spring athletes would be unchanged by the policy.

The impact on most fall and winter sports should also be minimal. In most cases, the bulk of the club seasons for fall and winter sports happens in the spring and summer, so asking student-athletes to take a four-week break shouldn't be the end of the world.

But sports like cross country, wrestling and skiing would be impacted, which means the NIAA needs an appeals process to the policy.

"That's one of the things that kept us from approving it for this year," Hughes said. "There would be appeals.

"We'll take those things into consideration. Definitely we'll have some kind of apepal procedure."

In cross country, there's the Foot Locker National Championships, which normally takes place less than a month after the NIAA season concludes. One athlete in particular, Fallon's Riley Orozco, could have been impacted by the policy this year.

The National High School Wrestling Championships took place in March and Orozco needed to continue his training for that event after winning the NIAA 4A State title at 171 pounds. Orozco finished fourth at nationals and his performance helped him earn a scholarship to Cal State Bakersfield.

Many skiers would also need to continue to participate in elite events after the high school season ends. All these cases would be obvious exceptions to the policy.

Also still to be worked out by the NIAA is what exactly constitutes a violation of the policy and what punishment would be handed down to schools, coaches and athletes if they're found in violation of the policy.

One major reason for the policy is to encourage student-athletes to play more than one sport. The thinking being that if student-athletes have to take a four-week break from the sport they completed, they'll be encouraged to participate in another sport.

To a certain extent, most football coaches have already instituted this policy in their summer programs. There was a time when coaches would run their summer programs right up until the time that fall practice begins. But now football coaches cut off their summer programs to give their players at least a three to four week break.

The policy in Washoe County has received mixed reviews from coaches, Hughes said. "Some of them like it and some of them don't like it," he said.

But another major reason for the policy is to try to give coaches a break as well. In many cases, coaching has become a 12-month a year job and Hughes said he hopes the four-week break will cut down on coaching burn out. "We have a lot of people getting out of coaching today," he said.

"Those are the two issues," Hughes also said about encouraging student-athletes to play more than one sport and cutting down on coaching burnout as reasons for the policy.


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