Athletic Director Placed in Hot Seat at Board of Education Meeting
Board president Matt Markling pressed Athletic Director Robert Thayer over speculation that coaches, too bent on winning, work to prevent their athletes from playing in more than one sport.
By John Deike
Lakewood Board of Education president Matt Markling said speculation is growing among some parents, students and staff about coaches who heavily discourage student athletes from playing more than one sport at Lakewood High School.
The subject was publicly broached during Monday’s regular meeting at Harding Middle School as Athletic Director Bob Thayer gave his quarterly update to the board.
During his presentation, he mentioned that one-sport student athletes perform much higher scholastically than non-athletes, and he referenced data showing that non-athletes average about a 2.4 grade point average versus athletes whose average GPA’s lie in the mid to high 3.0 range.
When hearing this, Markling asked Thayer why, after repeated requests, hadn’t the board been given data to see how many students were playing multiple sports in order to determine how these particular athletes were performing, both athletically and scholastically.
From there, Markling bashed what he called an unwritten “philosophy” or “ideology” among LHS coaches which discourages students from playing more than one sport so as not to fall behind in their respective program that typically runs year-round when taking conditioning, practices and games into account.
Markling went a step further saying that he’d heard from parents and students that coaches have threatened to bench or cut athletes who ignore their request to stick to one sport.
Board member Linda Beebe joined the conversation and said, “Just as a reference, the article in last week’s ‘Lakewood Times’ focused on a young lady who had been told that she really shouldn’t be involved in more than one sport and it seemed in the tone of that article to have to fight for the right to participate in more than one sport.”
Thayer responded saying, “Let me say this, high school sports in general and it’s just not in Lakewood – the demands on the student athlete are becoming greater and greater and greater. Every sport is becoming year-round…football, baseball, basketball, everyone…Now, coaches want to win and they want to compete so, yes, they want kids to participate fully in those programs.
“Now, that is different from saying, ‘We do not want you to play baseball because we want you in spring workouts for basketball…’ Quite frankly, I have not come across any scenarios where it’s been proven that a coach has said to an athlete, ‘We don’t want you to do this, we don’t want you to do that.’
The subject then switched to gender equity between boys and girls sports, and what Thayer was doing to help stem ineligibility among athletes.
Superintendent Dr. Joe Madak spoke up, diffused the subtle tension in the room and said more data and facts needed to be provided on all these matters during an upcoming regular meeting before judgments and conclusions could be reached.
“I’m just not buying that conclusory argument that the athletic program throughout high school athletics is one sport only,” Markling said.
And as the data is collected, Markling asked that similar districts should be looked at to see how many sports its students are playing and how they’re performing on the field and in the classroom.
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