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High Schools | ERIC SONDHEIMER

Sounding Off on Transfer Issue

January 27, 2002|ERIC SONDHEIMER

For five consecutive Sundays, I have addressed the issue of transfer students in high school sports, with the hope of encouraging a dialogue on what must be done to protect the integrity of the system.

It's an issue that provokes emotional responses. The dozens of e-mails coming in show there are people willing to take a stand against the abuses taking place.

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From Jack of Palos Verdes, the father of three sons: "I remember when the Ivy League de-emphasized sports in the early '50s and my anger at the University of Pennsylvania. As I look back, I now recognize they made the proper decision. I never realized our high schools would become so infected with the misguided emphasis on sports. I have witnessed some of the worst conduct possible in the high school ranks--the overemphasis on winning, transfers, abominable coaches, unrealistic parents, substance abuse and administrators who are either oblivious or don't care."

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From Michael, a former basketball coach: "I can honestly say that as much as I loved coaching kids, I would not be able to coach in the current high school environment. The greatest satisfaction I derived from coaching was seeing the development of an athlete from the awkward early stages of adolescence to the confidence of early adulthood. Being loyal to your school, your teammates and your coach was part of what built great teams. It was what made me enjoy coaching, even if we didn't win.

"The current trend in high school athletics emphasizes immediate gratification. Athletes and their parents are encouraged to continually look for a better situation to enhance their chances for more attention from colleges. Their willingness to sacrifice academic continuity for the sake of a championship or scholarship is alarming.

"Perspective has been lost. High school athletics is a beautiful thing in its purest form, but with more and more emphasis on getting scholarships, athletes have become commodities and coaches have become pimps. Ultimately, the only individuals who have control over this trend are parents. They must have the wisdom to look beyond the immediate gratification and have the strength to make the right decision for their children."

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From Mark of Long Beach, a former athletic director: "I fought hard for integrity but we were so outnumbered that even with the help of the CIF, we were unable to stem the wave of cheating. I left it over 10 years ago but have kept in touch. It is truly amazing what has gone on. The state of athletics caused by the unscrupulous actions of coaches, parents and administrators in our high schools is absolutely deplorable."

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From Bruce of Thousand Oaks, whose son is a quarterback: "Transferring has become a false remedy for ailments that can't be corrected. My son bleeds green and white, loves his class and teammates. Transferring was never an option. He rode the bench his junior year to play with his friends his senior year and hopes that he plays well enough to get to the next level. Either way, he believes he made the right decision."

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From Joe of Chino: "I am appalled at how bluntly parents are shopping their kids around. I had a parent ask me if I could tell them before the May 15 [transfer] deadline if a particular coach was going to be rehired so they could put in their transfer because they are not happy with the amount of playing time.

"The kids are playing like a bunch of individuals because they are more concerned with their playing time and stats. I have had players threaten to transfer after I have disciplined them or because I wanted them to play another position for the good of the team. My response is, 'Come to my office and I will give you the transfer slip.' We had a couple of kids transfer to another school for football season and then want to transfer back after the season so they can graduate with their friends. I just wonder what their 'friends' think."

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From Tim: "There is a role for high school sports and it is not to cater to the prima donnas and their parents. All kids deserve a chance to grasp for the brass ring, and the prostitution that is currently infecting this last bastion of amateurism can only be stopped when men of principle identify this plague for what it is."

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From Myra of Venice: "I have been a coach with LAUSD since 1982. This year I stepped down from coaching volleyball. I am tired of watching new coaches and some old coaches do illegal things. I have always made it a point to 'pursue victory with honor.' I believe that as a coach, our influence on our students is important and if we do not run a clean program how can we expect our students to do the correct things?"

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From Brian of Simi Valley: "There is a lot to be said for a kid staying in the community where he has lived with his friends no matter how bad the sports program is. My son is playing for an average team and I know if he is good enough to get a sports scholarship, he will get noticed no matter how the team does."

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From Eileen of Encino, the mother of a football player: "Many times we've been told by parents that they were unhappy with the sports programs and they were moving to greener pastures. They can go because my reply has been: 'My son is not here for the sports but for the academics.' The sports is a nice plus, and it will be there to teach him discipline, commitment and teamwork."

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From Jerry of Culver City, an athletic director: "High school sports needs to address the real purpose of their existence, supporting the education of our young people. The lessons we are teaching through athletics may not always be consistent with what we preach. Please know that there are steps being taken to address this issue. The questions will be: How long will it take? How effective will it be? And what legal challenges will have to be addressed?"

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

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