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High Schools | Eric Sondheimer

Lack of a Policy Setting Poor Precedent

April 21, 2002|Eric Sondheimer

Last month, the school newspaper at North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake High ran an article entitled, "Booze, Drugs & Sports."

Ninety-five Wolverine athletes were surveyed and 48% admitted having smoked or drank within 24 hours of a game.

One unidentified athlete said, "I think my stats show that I play better in games after a night that I drink. I don't get hung over, so I don't think it should matter whether I drink or not. That should be my decision."

The story was provocative, informative and should have produced an immediate response from school administrators in the form of advising coaches to start taking a closer look at what their athletes are doing away from school.

But that's unlikely to happen at Harvard-Westlake, where tuition will cost $18,300 next year. Harvard-Westlake believes in privacy rights and trusts parents to create and impose their own disciplinary and ethical standards on their children away from campus.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Tuesday April 23, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 47 words Type of Material: Correction
High school basketball--A change in NCAA rules involving the recruiting of high school basketball players who are juniors was reported incorrectly Sunday in Sports. College coaches can meet with juniors one time at their schools, not homes. Also, Kansas Coach Roy Williams met with Los Angeles Loyola guard Omar Wilkes at Loyola High.

"It's my belief people should learn what to do because it's right," Headmaster Thomas Hudnut said. "I think punishment is the last resort, and it's better to appeal to people's good instincts than merely address the bad ones."

Growing numbers of public and private schools are asking athletes to sign contracts requiring them to abstain from drinking if they want to participate in sports. It's a worthy attempt to establish an alcohol-free environment.

Athletes at Harvard-Westlake who drink at parties or social gatherings are unlikely to receive disciplinary action by school officials unless it reflects badly on the school or results in legal action.

"We don't condone it, but it's not our role to tell parents how to raise kids," boys' basketball Coach Greg Hilliard said. "We wish these kids would realize the dangers of drinking."

But playing on an athletic team is a privilege, not a right, obligating coaches to impose stricter standards on the conduct of their students.

Teenage drinking is not acceptable on or off campus, during the season or out of season. It should not be tolerated, whether parents approve or not.

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A change in NCAA basketball recruiting rules immediately allows juniors in high school to take official recruiting trips and have home visits with college coaches.

Omar Wilkes of Los Angeles Loyola High had a home visit with Kansas Coach Roy Williams earlier this week. Ekene Ibekwe, a 6-9 center from Carson, is scheduled to take a recruiting trip to Arizona.

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Ventura St. Bonaventure should change its nickname from Seraphs to Highlanders, considering that the football team's starting inside linebackers this fall, Lee Martin and Tony Castaldi, are transfers from Simi Valley Royal. Castaldi arrived in January. He and Martin carpool from Simi Valley.

L.A. Fremont has picked up a key transfer student in Michael Beach, who started at quarterback last season at Hamilton. Beach is expected to have lots of success passing to All-City receiver Mark Bradford.

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Defending champion Chatsworth (19-1) had better not purchase those 2002 City championship baseball rings just yet. Sylmar (15-4) is making the kind of steady improvement that could make it a legitimate City title contender.

Crucial to the Spartans' rise has been a healthy Jamie Mah, who started the season unable to pitch because of a shoulder injury. He pitched a complete game last week to end Woodland Hills El Camino Real's winning streak at 13 games. Earlier this season, he hit a grand slam to defeat the City's hardest throwing pitcher, Eddie Baeza of Poly.

"We're playing pretty well and definitely doing things that indicate [we] might be [City title contenders]," Coach Gary Donatella said.

Pitching coach Ray Rivera, who could be the leading candidate to replace Donatella if he retires at the end of this season, has done a terrific job with the pitching staff despite injuries.

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Remember the name Cary Harris. He's a freshman at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and already being compared to former Knight running back Justin Fargas.

"He's faster than Justin was as a young guy," track coach Joe McNab said. "I don't know if he'll be faster than Justin as a senior."

Harris has run 49.8 in the 400 meters and 22.4 in the 200. He could be the Knights' starting tailback as a sophomore this fall.

Notre Dame is gaining a top incoming freshman quarterback in Garrett Green, cousin of USC quarterback Brandon Hance.

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Junior shortstop Chris Valaika of Newhall Hart is on a hitting tear. He had leadoff home runs in consecutive games against Valencia and Canyon. He has 18 hits, including five home runs, in his last 34 at-bats.

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Bill Redell, football coach at Westlake Village Oaks Christian and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, has decided to launch a program teaching leadership skills to teenage boys ages 13 to 18. The weekly class begins on June 27 at Oaks Christian and will last four weeks. Cost is $125.

"I think there's a crying need in this country for men to be leaders," Redell said.

Redell plans to focus on teaching integrity, ethics and developing self-confidence. Information: (818) 575-9228.

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Eric Sondheimer can be reached at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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