01/14/09 — Opinion -- Local hoops days now elongated due to budget strife

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Opinion -- Local hoops days now elongated due to budget strife

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on January 14, 2009 1:46 PM

I arrived at a local high school recently to cover a mid-week girls' and boys' varsity basketball doubleheader.

I walked into the gym shortly before 6 p.m. thinking I was there just in time to grab a seat and settle in for the varsity girls' contest. Much to my dismay the junior varsity boys' game had just gotten underway and finished at 6:55.

Once the varsity games finished, it was nearly 10 p.m.

Driving back to the News-Argus that night, I tried to understand the logic behind playing two JV games and two varsity contests in the same gym -- all in one night.

The JV girls and boys play four seven-minute quarters. The varsity teams play eight-minute quarters. Add 30 minutes for halftime -- all four games combined -- and it takes roughly six-plus hours to play just 150 minutes of basketball.

The current economy has reduced area schools' travel budget and admission prices have been hiked to $6. Obviously, the four games at one site helps reduce cost -- at a minimum -- and requires less security, along with less school personnel.

However, I can't help but wonder how parents of athletes or cheerleaders of driving age feel about having their son or daughter driving home late on basketball game nights.

With games ending around 10 p.m. and often even later, one can only imagine what time some of these student-athletes are getting to bed once they've showered, gotten something to eat and completed any unfinished homework or studying. This can create an awfully quick turnaround with school starting at or before 8 a.m.

I fondly remember the colossal struggles that ensued daily between my father and me as he relentlessly tried to get me out of bed so I could make it to high school on time.

I can't help but believe many parents of area student athletes engage in a similar war of attrition each morning that could be greatly alleviated if their child weren't out so late.

After all, student-athletes are truly students first. The likelihood that any of these athletes will play sports beyond college is very small which places an increased importance on their education.

The quality of that education becomes greatly hindered when these student athletes are sacrificing study time and sleep at an unnecessary cost.

Rumors have already begun swirling about the possibility of one school hosting both JV contests next season with the varsity games at the other site. This solution would likely resolve the problem of some unnecessarily late nights. In turn, it would hopefully get our area's student athletes off the roads sooner and in bed earlier.

Also, by only playing two games in each building it would free up extra seats in what are currently overcrowded and often times, hot and stuffy gyms.

To those skeptics of change who are in favor of playing four games in one building that last from 4-10 p.m. -- or later -- I would argue that Wayne County or North Carolina wouldn't be the first to buck the system.

Virginia, Pennsylvania, Georgia, West Virginia and several other states on the East coast have adopted the same format I've suggested or something similar in recent years with marked success.

Perhaps the greatest virtue of sports is their ability to create camaraderie, unite communities and keep America's youth productive and out of trouble while laying a foundation for their future.

When administrators and coaches willfully keep our teenagers out later than they should, the price paid for the sake of a victory on the court becomes increasingly difficult to pay.