Archive for Wednesday, December 12, 2001

District jettisons C-teams

Parents discuss seniors not allowed to play basketball

December 12, 2001

Tonganoxie High School's C-team was benched Monday.

The school board terminated the year-old idea after it wasn't used with fall sports.

"I've learned something it's not socially acceptable, "Erickson said about the C-team.

The board also discussed changes to the district's sports participation policy, after discussion about four seniors who no longer may play on the boys' basketball team.

Greg Burnett, Brett Cruickshank, Chris Vernon and Matt Tate started the season as returning seniors. THS coach David Walker, though, told the players they could practice, but wouldn't see action this season.

Tonganoxie has a no-cut policy, and the Kansas State High School Activities Association allows for 12 players on a post-season tournament team.

Tonganoxie started practice with nine seniors. A Kaw Valley League rule states that seniors can only play varsity-level basketball.

Mike Vernon, Chris' father, and Cecil and Janet Burnett, Greg's parents, spoke to the Tonganoxie school board on Monday.

"The main goal is to encourage and to build them up," Vernon said about high school student-athletes. "Unfortunately in this situation that is not what was accomplished. I don't know if there is anything that can be done.

"Realistically my son isn't going to play basketball. I'm not doing this for my son, I'm doing this for every student coming through this system."

Janet Burnett said she and her husband came home the night Greg was cut, and found him still wearing his practice clothes.

"Was this really worth the hurt that these four boys and their families endured," Janet Burnett asked.

Burnett and Cruickshank earned letters last season.

After being informed they wouldn't play, the four seniors left practice. But Vernon and Burnett returned.

Janet Burnett read a letter to the board that said Walker later talked with the two.

"He said they were there to encourage and support other players and not show them up," Burnett said.

They were also told that they couldn't move up to varsity, that they couldn't be cut, but could be kicked off the team, and that Walker was disappointed the players discussed the situation with other students.

The four seniors did not attend the board meeting, nor did Walker.

On Tuesday, Walker declined to comment on the meeting, but discussed the current team.

"Our focus is to continue playing basketball," Walker said. "We're moving on. It's not fair to the players there right now."

School board members called the situation an unfortunate one.

"You can't un-ring a bell," said board member Ron Moore.

Fellow board member Dr. Richard Dean said rules seem different for academics and athletics.

"Out of 107 seniors, 80 are on the honor roll," Dean said. "We coddle them, we take care of them. In the gym we cut their legs out from under them."

Board member Rick Lamb said he empathized with the parents.

"I hurt for you guys and your kids," Lamb said. "I've had two boys who have grown up through it.

"They've lost face at school. It's a huge issue. I'm not happy with it at all."

The board outlined a new understanding of the no-cut policy Monday:

There will be no C-team competition in the future because it has proven to be unsuccessful.

Additional uniforms will be purchased for volleyball, basketball and baseball (and in other activities if the need arises) to allow for all seniors to be included and suited up for varsity teams.

When post-season tournaments specify a limited number of players allowed in uniform, the coach has the board and administration's support in determining who plays.

The coach also has the ability to determine who plays on varsity. If at any time the varsity coach (after attempts to advise and counsel a player) determines a player is creating an attitude problem or divisive situation on the team, the coach can remove the player from the team.

All players have the opportunity to promote within the team during the season. This is determined by the coach.

Athletics director John Lee said the suggested policy alteration isn't a major change.

"We're just going to stick with that and encourage kids to come out and play," Lee said.

The C-team policy was available if more players were to come out for a sport than spaces allowed. That team could play club teams and other junior varsity or c-teams.

The board also discussed examining the coaches' handbook, which is a guideline for coaches in regard to their various sports.

Vernon said he was interested in the documentation of the handbook.

"I'd like to see the coaches' handbook," Vernon said. "In this instance the coach clearly communicated what his plan was a kick in the stomach.

"I know coaches have hard decisions and they will still have hard decisions, but that goes with the territory of being a high school coach."

The board will vote on the new no-cut policy in its March 11 meeting. If accepted, the policy will be in effect for the spring sports seasons.

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