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Los Angeles Times 1988 ALL-STARS : Era of Specialization Affects Decisions of Girls as Athletes

April 14, 1988|STEVE HENSON | Times Staff Writer

The all-star boys and girls teams, each consisting of 10 members, their coaches and parents will be guests of the Times at 9 a.m. Sunday, May 1, at the annual Times High School Basketball Awards Brunch where all-star teams from 12 circulation areas will be honored at the Anaheim Hilton. The featured Speaker will be Loyola Coach Paul Westhead. The players and coaches of the year from each area will be announced.

The teams were chosen on the basis of a poll of area coaches, who are asked to fill out ballots nominating their own players and opponents, plus the observations of college scouts and sportswriters. Each player will receive the traditional Times golden basketball plaque and award certificate.

Specialization, that natural byproduct of industrialized society, has infiltrated girls' high school athletics. Yet while some coaches point to it as a reason for the uncommon strength of basketball in Ventura County, others discourage girls confining themselves to a single sport.

There was a time when the best female athletes played volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter and softball or track in the spring. To become special these days, many girls believe they must channel their energies toward a single sport.

"Girls are more willing to specialize because they see that there are scholarships to be had if they dedicate themselves," said Santa Clara High Coach Tom McConville, whose teams have won seven consecutive Frontier League titles. "The strength of basketball in this county is that more and more teams have year-round programs."

Thousand Oaks, which posted a record of 25-4 and was undefeated in Marmonte League play this season, had only one multisport athlete. All-County selections Barbara Tanner, Lina Mascarenas and Kris Pederson all concentrate solely on basketball.

"Specialization is nothing I encourage or discourage but it is clear that girls are leaning toward it," said Chuck Brown, the girls' basketball and softball coach at Thousand Oaks.

Joe Vaughan, whose Buena teams have won two state, two Southern Section and 11 Channel League championships, agrees that year-round programs are more prevalent. But he counsels players to participate in as many sports as possible.

"They only go through high school once," he said. "I never tell them to specialize."

Newbury Park Coach Nori Parvin goes as far as saying that diversity, not specialization, is a major reason her team was 19-8 and ranked in the Southern Section 4-A Division top 10.

"Most of my girls are in shape all year round because they stay active in other sports," she said.

All-County forward Kristy Gellenbeck runs cross-country and her Newbury Park teammate, All-County guard Marlo Cormier, is a volleyball standout.

It is difficult to excel in more than one sport because time demands have increased in recent years. Volleyball players are expected to play on club teams during the spring and summer. Basketball players are expected to attend camps and play on summer teams. Little time, it would appear, is left for schoolwork, the beach and prom night.

"Most parents will tell you they'd rather their girls have a full schedule of athletics, even if it means two hours of basketball and two hours of volleyball on the same day," Vaughan maintains.

Volleyball, more than any other sport, elicits strong opinions from basketball coaches.

Some, like Parvin, embrace it as an ideal complement. "Marlo Cormier has a 28-inch vertical leap that makes her very effective in both sports," she said.

Others, like Brown, believe volleyball is too demanding for girls who wish to excel in more than one sport. "Volleyball wants them 12 months a year," he said.

McConville, a staunch advocate of specialization, nevertheless points to volleyball as an excellent form of off-season training for basketball players. Leaping, timing and team play are crucial to both sports.

"The strength of the Frontier League in basketball is directly related to the strength of the league in volleyball," he said, noting that Nordhoff, Calabasas and Agoura have top-notch volleyball programs.

And there's no denying that the county is strong in basketball. Buena, Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park were ranked in the 4-A top 10 and Santa Clara was runner-up in the Southern California regional bracket of the state 1-A playoffs.

The Marmonte League has several developing programs with a strong group of underclassmen, including Camarillo, which finished third this season. The Channel League, usually dominated by Buena, boasted another top-10 team, Santa Barbara, which won the league title.

"This has been a strong area for many, many years," Vaughan said. "We're away from the metropolitan area, but if you take a look, there are several strong youth programs and several strong high school programs that create a good atmosphere for players to develop. The opportunities are there."

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