Travel ball bill wins Senate support heads to House with 10-days left in legislative session

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill that would do away with current in-season travel team sports restrictions in West Virginia has cleared a major hurdle at the state capitol with Tuesday’s approval of the legislation by the state Senate.

The bill, SB 813, was adopted by the Senate on 24-9 vote and sent to the House of Delegates.

Sen. Amy Grady (R-Mason)

The measure would allow kids to play for their school teams and their travel teams at the same time in the same season. The West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Committee currently prohibits double dipping in team sports like basketball, baseball and volleyball. The school principal-directed organization does allow some individual sports to cross-over in season like wrestling and tennis.

Senate Education Committee Chair Amy Grady, R-Mason, the bill’s sponsor, said Tuesday that she’s received dozens of emails since discussion of the bill began a few weeks ago. She said one mother told her about her daughter being prohibited from participating in her AAU team’s media day because it happened at the same time as the school season for the sport.

Jay Taylor

“What I think is irrational is that we, or the school system, or the SSAC thinks that they should be able to tell parents what they can allow their child to do on a Saturday when they are sitting at home with them,” Grady said.

Sen. Jay Taylor, R-Taylor, helps coach his daughter’s middle school softball team. He said he knows firsthand how restrictive the SSAC rule is when it comes to simple in-season association with a travel team.

“During their regular season they can’t have anything to do with that other team. Anything from a fundraiser to just getting together with the team for a dinner,” Taylor said. “The SSAC is being a little too strict.”

David Price

SSAC Executive Director David Price said there are several good reasons to keep travel team sports separate from school team sports. He said elimination of the current rule will put undue presser on the student.

“I understand that she (Grady) says it’s a parent’s choice, but in high school, a lot of times, it’s that athlete making that decision,” Price said last week on MetroNews “Talkline.” It’s going to put a lot of undue pressure on that athlete.”

Price said there’s also concern about possible injuries caused by overuse.

“The problem with playing the same sport is that, you know, you’re talking about the same muscle groups, all of these other things that go into it. You are talking about overuse injuries and sport-specific injuries that exist,” Price said.

Grady said the reasons to eliminate the restrictions far outweigh the reasons to keep them in place.

Mike Woelfel

“There are states all around us that do not have this rule and we’re seeing students around use compete in both ways and our student athletes are not,” Grady said.

Senate Minority Leader Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, voted against the bill. He predicts the ruination of high school basketball in West Virginia.

“You have AAU basketball, travel ball, that will take place during the season. So you will have student athletes whose academics will suffer, who will risk injury,” Woelfel said.

Coaches group responds

The West Virginia Schools Athletics Coaches Association (WVSACA) sent a letter to lawmakers Tuesday asking them to further consider possible injuries by over usage.

“We do not need to add more innings to a baseball pitchers arm, we do not need more weigh ins during a wrestling season, and we do not need more soccer matches. There must be time for the athletes to rest, have family/social time, and have time to focus on their academics,” the letter said. “The WVSSAC sets the game limit of each sport from the recommendations of the NFHS and state medical professionals.”

The coaches’ group said it is also concerned about how eliminating the restriction will impact team chemistry.

“We can’t have players picking and choosing when they show up for practices and/or games. This is not a virtue that we should be teaching our athletes,” the coaches said.

The group added it “cannot afford” to have a major rule change like what the bill calls for a year after lawmakers created a high school transfer portal.

“We already have a great problem with finding teachers that will coach in our schools. We do not seek to take away parent decision making, we do seek to have order, and follow the rules of the NFHS and the (SSAC) Board of Control,” the organization said.

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