Garrett Cullen/MetroNews

High school practices in the future could extend throughout the entire summer, excluding the week of July 4th.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jim Phares said a proposal to expanding summertime sports practices can keep athletes out of trouble, but he understands that may come with the risk of increased injury.

“I’m not going to answer it just as a state superintendent, but also as a former teacher, a former coach, former high school principal and a former local superintendent,” told MetroNews Thursday during a break in the state Board of Education meeting in Charleston.

During his education career Phares coached football, basketball and tennis. He said there are pros and cons of adding additional summer weeks to the practice schedule.

Currently high school sports teams have a three-week window to practice in the summer. The proposal, approved this week by the Secondary Schools Activities Commission, would expand that period throughout most of the summer.

Lending structure to a teenager’s summer can be beneficial, Phares said.

“I know from my experience as a coach, if you can keep them busy they weren’t out doing thing they ought not be doing,” he said.

The superintendent also said he understands the concerns of parents about those extra practices from a health standpoint.

“I can also understand that there can be some research out there that they could have increased injury. They could have some other types of debilitating side effects of just being in practice all the time,” Phares said.

Even though the SSAC Board of Control has approved the change, the final decision lies with the state Board of Education. Phares predicted a very lively discussion.

“I don’t see this as something that’s going to bypass without some type of controversy or at least some discussion and dialog on both sides,” Phares said.

The SSAC proposal would not go into effect until the summer of 2015.

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  • Epahandle

    You people are archaic and ignorant to progression as a state. Academics are very important and should be the number one priority. However, athletics have been the foundation of our country for thousands of years. The only issue is that other states are progressing with the times and our state is still living in the 70's and 80's. If you want to read a descent study then here you go Sports teach discipline, social networking, respect, trust, loyalty, and more importantly allow the brain time to relax. Our fat state (2nd in the US) has issues with sitting at home and not doing anything active anymore. Well that is because ignorant people such as some of these people are blind to what is actually going on in the state.
    The first proposition should have went through and allowed coaches to work with their players all year round. There should be limits and punishments to those coaches who do not obey the rule, but our STUDENT athletes deserve the same opportunities as those around us who are getting the extra time needed.
    A major key to all of this that people are forgetting is that it is not mandatory and no one HAS to do it. This is just an option! As far as in the summer, They're still going to get to be kids: go on vacation, fish, and other activities they may want to do. Two hours every other day or ten hours a week is going to be good for them. It's time that West Virgina needs to wake up and move ahead with the times.

    • Jason412

      "However, athletics have been the foundation of our country for thousands of years."

      Thousands of years? I know Native American's played lacrosse and other sports but I've never heard of it being the foundation of their culture.

      • Epahandle

        Olympics have been in the country and around the world forever. Okay may have stretched the truth a little, but you get the gist.

  • wvuman1973

    “I know from my experience as a coach, if you can keep them busy they weren’t out doing thing they ought not be doing,” That is a very arrogant statement!!!! That is the parents responsibility. Let kids be kids and enjoy their summers.

    • Epahandle

      1973 enough said

    • WV77Steve

      Well said!
      I am an assist. with a high school program. Our head coach feels the same way you do and is very much against this proposal. The kids need time to be kids and with their families. We push them to grow up to fast.

  • Neil

    Hey, I'm former college football player and coached a lot of different sports. I had a lot of success. I'm a teacher too and called about a football job and got turned down. This is for Charles

  • Charles

    Get rid of the teacher preference in hiring coaches this wouldn't be needed. To many schools being lead by unqualified coaches because they teach. Even at the assistant level. If a teacher wants the spot a non teacher even if better qualified gets bumped. Stupid!!! So a former college player and coach can't get a hs job in this state because he does not teach. That is insanity. Meanwhile pass offense and defense in this state is 10 years behind the country

    • Jon Gruden

      Rarely are nonteachers "more qualified". If you want to coach, get a degree and quit whining.

      • Better Qualified

        Rarely better qualified - really? I suppose you believe acquiring an education degree in some way magically transforms a person into a better coach than someone who has played, coached and taught a sport for years. While it is helpful to be exposed to the various types of learners and instruction methods that are effective when working with students, I can say from observation and documented student achievement that a teaching certificate and education degree does not necessarily make someone an effective teacher or coach. I have both a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree in fields other than education (although I have a few graduate education courses in the mix). I have completed the NFHS coaching education program as well and attend many sport specific coaching clinics. All of this and yet I am considered qualified than a first year teacher who has never played the sport - amazing!

      • scott

        So, because you teach school that makes you a great coach? I'm pretty sure Nick Saban and Coach K aren't teaching any classes.

        • Epanhandle

          No but they went through due process and did their time in education. I'm not saying that all teachers are great coaches and I'm not saying that you can't be a good coach not being a teacher. What I'm saying is that as a head coach you should be a teacher or someone in the building with your players. That way if there is an issue, you are there.

          • scott

            I believe the reason is somewhat cloudy as to why teachers get preference. I would guess through my conversations with coaches and administrators its a liability and union issue.

      • Epahandle

        Totally agree, if you want to coach get your degree! Put in the time and effort to get an education so that you may educate others.

        • scott

          Your missing the point. I have a degree and work in administrative law and law enforcement, but am not employed by a school board. I do coach travel softball and our team won the USSSA world series a few years ago. My daughter is a freshman in high school and is a good athlete. She will probably play D2 somewhere. I can tell you that the coaching leaves a lot to be desired. Plus, at this level the coaches don't have a ton to do with it. Either you can play or you can't.

          • Epanhandle

            I think that head coaches should have to be teachers for the simple fact they are in the building the whole day and can deal with internal issues. You would be great to have on the staff with the knowledge and time you can give to the program. So I understand what you are saying

    • scott

      Yep. See my early post

  • William

    Practice in the summer time, -
    No one works for free

    • Bandit

      If that's the case, get out of your mama's basement William.

  • Shadow

    Why does everyone think this relates only to football? Open the gyms and let kids practice basketball or volleyball. No injuries there of consequence. Team sports teach things required to be successful that aren't found looking at a computer screen or reading a book.

  • peleliu

    That guy over there. At what age will you let your kids drive a car? Driving a car can become a contact situation. As for academic teams, let them compete against other schools and keep the won/lost records and their teacher be judged on performance as coaches are.

  • ThatGuyOverThere

    If I ever have kids, they will not play ball of any kind, they will be on academic teams, study math, science, English, physics, chemistry, etc. They will be encouraged to run track, swim, participate in shooting sports, etc. 5 years of football destroyed my 31 I feel broken down and beaten because of the various football injuries that I played through in school because I thought high school football really amounted to didn't. It was a complete waste of time, and I struggled in college because I put athletics before academics while in high school. Thankfully I worked through the learning curve and finished 3 degrees. In closing....academics sports...way towards the bottom of the list.

    • Just the Truth

      Well said!!

    • John Doe

      You probably got all of those injuries because you didn't do anything to get your body ready for football all summer long. So you showed up in August weak and then you got broken during the season. If you would have had the summer workouts to get your body ready for a violent sport you maybe singing another tune.

    • John Doe

      Really? You sound physically, mentally, and sociably soft. Let your kids make their own decisions about what they want to play. WV is one of the few states that don't already have this rule. Remember cry babies it's volunteer. Also, it won't cost precious school dollars because they don't pay the coaches during the summer. If this can keep more kids off the couch in a top five obese state then I'm for it.

      • Epahandle

        +100 spend some time working out or better yet go outside. You might learn a few things the books and computers can't teach you.

        • PanhandlePete

          Agreed. If your kid was on the Martinsburg football team he may learn how to steal a car, break into someone's office or even how to kidnap someone.

          • Epahandle

            You said football you didn't say programs. There are plenty of people in this state that have made mistakes and again those people have made those decisions. However the number of good players and success stories outweigh the bad.

          • PanhandlePete

            There have been well more than two players from MHS that have gone to jail in the past 16 years, my friend. In fact, the ERJ website looks like a copy of a Martinsburg yearbook. I will not call out names on a public forum like this, but there are a few past MHS sports team captains who have graduated in past 16 years that have the distinction of making to another hall-of-fame list on the WV State Police website.

          • Epahandle

            So Idiot your saying that two players out of the 640 players that have played at Martinsburg in the last 16 years make my theory wrong. Once again you have proven that you sir are an idiot.

          • PanhandlePete

            I thought "Sports teach discipline, social networking, respect, trust, loyalty, and more". Sounds like that isn't working out too well in Martinsburg.

          • Epahandle

            Panhandle Pete you are an idiot! Two kids get arrested and everyone at Martinsburg or on the football team is a criminal. What a joke! You people need to grow up and stop focusing on the fact that these young men are able to make decisions on their own, and that has nothing to do with the program. I believe they have produced far more successful men in the program than the bad, but you people refuse to realize that. Even worse is that you are from the "panhandle" and the rest of the state already doesn't respect us, and now idiots like you give them a reason to keep that up.

    • scott


  • Jim Phares

    I wanted to try everything and soon realized I wasn't very good at any of them. So please forgive me and select me as the next State Supt. I will try harder.

  • Blah Blah Blah

    Blah, blah, blah, blah.....another Supt who previously coached but obviously didn't give a darn about academics.

  • PanhandlePete

    I am amazed how schools in this state find the time and money for summer sports programs but when it comes to summer academic programs you might as well forget it. In fact, students wishing to take summer school have to pay out of pocket for it in most cases. Here's a reality check, for all the money and effort this state puts in high school sports one would be hard-pressed to find many post-high school success stories. Martinsburg HS, which boasts the AAA football championship for the last four years, seems to send more graduates to the Eastern Regional Jail than what they do to college.

    • scott


      • Epahandle

        Once again Pete you are an idiot!

  • Leon

    Former teacher , former coach, former principal, former local Superintendent and soon to be former State Supt. Not successful at any of them. Shut up and stay out of it. Let members decide.

    • On Target

      Exactly. What a loser.

  • The Answer

    Scott you are exactly right in what you say. I have a grandson who is a great baseball player. But he plays for a small high school and
    doesn't get any real exposure till summer on a travel team.

    • scott

      I hear you " The Answer". I'm talking more about softball, but my girls do travel basketball as well. WV has handcuffed themselves by not taking the best applicants for coaching jobs. Instead, they are mandated by law to give preference to an employee who may not be the most qualified for the position. STUPID!

  • Scott

    In my opinion, this is being done because the WVSSAC sees the writing on the wall concerning "travel" teams. WV has some of the most outrageous rules concerning participation in non-school teams. They are feeling the increased pressure that these all star teams are getting better coaching and better exposure. I speak from experience. I have 2 daughters who are great athletes. Recruiters are more interested in "travel" results than high school results. Just the facts.

  • An actual athlete

    The new AAU culture where everybody starts a team so there kid can play has taken the place of the old system where there were 5 to 8 teams in the state tournament to go to nationals and only the best ten kids that tried out got to play has ruined the basketball culture in this state. So at least for basketball I like this idea. I see the benefits for football as well. Sadly the legion baseball decline makes high school summer league imperative as well. All of this makes going out of state to play sports and a mini vacation impossible. Very sad for our kids

    • Parent

      Worse yet An actual athlete, kids are afraid to miss anything deemed "mandatory" or "permitted" because they know a coach will hold playing time over their heads when the actual sports season starts. Personally, I'd be surprised if the State Board approves this.

      • scott

        I hope they don't approve it. I would rather them allow "travel" participation in season. Only individual sport athletes are currently allowed to participate in other practices or contests outside of wvssac sanctioned events. You can't even take a picture with another team or you risk the chance of being declared ineligible. Ridiculous!

        • Devin

          This conversation is interesting to say the least, great points and some ill informed. I agree completely with Scott's thoughts of travel during the season, to a point. But the travel must be limited to keep the basic integrity of the season they are participating in. The state needs to look at every sport and make modifications, that is true. We have great student athletes here that get no publicity because of the state holding the kids back. And they do hold them back. Most of the comments here seemed to be very limited on how they are informed. It's a tough call but I believe this issue really does affect the larger team sports. The three weeks of formal practice could possibly go to four. No more. Especially now that districts are shortening the summer because of missed school due to weather. After the four weeks, the serious athletes are training regularly anyway. I see it everyday of the summer at HHS. No coaches involved. Any player who is serious will make the time for everything they need to do during the summer, to be ready for the season, "if they are serious". I also agree completely with teams such as soccer, and others being better coached at the travel level and the scouting exposure they receive from those tournaments. My kids use to play travel soccer years ago, and yes the WVSSAC needs to be overhauled and allow qualified and experienced coaches to coach. And no the WVSSAC doesn't allow individual sport athletes to travel randomly firing the season if your travel causes you to miss any sanctioned event or practice under the state guidelines. You can travel to an event if it does not interfere with the event or scheduled practice. If you do, you are ineligible for the rest of the season. Most school coaches I know work with those athletes or teams that do travel. I also know this because my son is the current two time defending WV State Tennis Champion from Huntington and we deal with this very issue year round because he's also one of the most highly recruited players in the country, so far over 50 D-1 schools want him and no, the schools recruiting him didn't come to see him in WV. We travel. And as for practice, he's on the court 2-3 hours a day, five to six days a week for about fifty weeks a year. So yeah he's practicing "out of season" anyway and staying in shape and ready just like the others in their sports should be able to do. As for academics. They should always be number one. And just like the serious athletes, sports should not get in the way of your children's grades if they are serious about grades. The kids can have both if they do the work and have the discipline but It's up to us parents see to that and teach them how to do it. It shouldn't matter if they change the rule or not for your kids to excel on the field and in the classroom..

          • OldSkool

            Devin is spot on with it being up to us parents to teach the kids to have balance and succeed at both academics and athletics.

            I read where someone said the kids need this structure during the summer. Yeah and it is up to the parents to give them structure, not the school system when the kids normally wouldn't even be in school.

            I have seen first hand that the better travel ball clubs are often better coached than the athlete's high school sport teams. Certain sports where teams travel to out of state tournaments during the summer offer more exposure to college recruiters than the local high school team can provide. The better players are generally playing travel during the summer anyway and wouldn't necessarily benefit from additional instruction from their high school coaches.

            My daughter has graduated but when playing she focused on her sport 9 months of the year. The only benefit of the 3 week workout period was the team building aspect.

            Overall this is a bad rule with some upside but just too much opportunity for it to be abused by an over zealous coach that think their sport is more important than another.

          • scott

            Devin. Well said. I do know the entire rules about the travel interfering etc. I just didn't want to write it all. I have researched this extensively to include what our neighbouring states do in regard to travel. For example, MD and VA don't really care if you play for another team in season. PA requires you dress for 75% of contests to be eligible for playoffs, but won't declare you ineligible if you're on a non school team. Kentucky is similar to WV but only for football and basketball. The list goes on. I will send my literature at the appropriate time to the parties that will require it.
            That's great to hear about your kid! I wish him the best of luck!