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        As many of you know, LHSAA Commissioner Kenny Henderson is pushing a
proposal to “tweak” the lengths of the basketball and baseball seasons. I believe all of us
need to be aware of this proposed legislation, so that we can urge our principals to vote
the way that we desire them to vote. What I fear is that as coaches we will not act, we
will not have our voices heard, and next year, we will all be complaining about this
“tweaking” that we did nothing to prevent.

My Concerns

a) This is more than “tweaking,” look how many practices we lose.

We will “tweak” the schedule sounds harmless, but if you look at the proposal on the
LHSAA website, the “executive committee” has proposed that three weeks of basketball
practice be eliminated in the fall. Our normal starting date of October 4 th would be
pushed back to October 25 th, and our games would be cut by a week and would start
Thanksgiving week.

Additionally, spring basketball practice would be eliminated. The posted rationale is
that now summer basketball has been “extended and is clearly defined.” This claim
seems quite disingenuous to me. This administration did not invent summer basketball.
It has been going on for years. This is simply an excuse to eliminate spring basketball.

In total, we will lose six weeks of practice. If we cannot practice our players, how do
they improve? Why are we punishing kids who wish to excel at their sport?

B) This “feels like” a football move

We all know that football was, is, and will continue to be THE SPORT in the state of
Louisiana, but this seems to be about football having its own season, shared only with
Cross Country and Swimming. We are to lose over thirty practices, while football season
remains completely intact. The only proposal to “shorten” football at all had football’s
spring cut from fifteen days to ten.

Again, I don’t see why kids who want to compete in basketball should have their chances
to do so cut down.
C) Once it’s gone, it will be tough to get it back

I know that some of you will be in favor of starting later because not having your football
guys has harmed you in the power ranking.

The reality, however, is that our basketball association made those changes and has
invented an admittedly highly imperfect system. BUT I also know that the association
has already begun to discuss possible changes including having coaches vote at the end of
the season as part of the solution. Coaches know which teams were affected by injuries
and by football. We know who is playing well at the end of the year. These are things
that computers fail to factor. If we relinquish time from our season, that time will be
tough for us to ever recapture through the LHSAA. We can make the changes, the
“tweaks” that need to be made to make our power rating system work better without
shortening our season.

I also know that some of you favor the shortening of the season but want to keep spring
basketball. The spring is one of my top concerns as well. That stance is a risk, and since
the LHSAA is submitting the sports season proposal as one large proposal, we would lose
all the practices, not just the fall.

D) I have never had a kid complain about spring basketball

I can only speak from my experience, but most of our players really enjoy spring
basketball. They are in school anyway, and it is a low stress situation in which we begin
to discover what kind of team we can be the following season.

You know what kids really hate: practicing during the summer. Traditionally, spring
basketball prepares our teams for the summer, so summer practice can be limited. If the
LHSAA cuts spring basketball, it almost forces us devote more time in the summer.
These proposals are (in theory) supposed to make things easier for the kids. BUT if our
teams are not allowed to practice during the school year, then those of us who want
successful programs may need to do more practice in the summer, something neither our
kids nor any of us will be particularly fired up about. They need time away from school.
They need opportunities to take vacations with their families and so do we! That is why
July has always typically been a “dead month” for basketball in our state.

   E) What happens to the kids during these off times?

I think kids need some structure. For some kids, this will limit the amount of structure
that they have in their lives. Simply put, they will discover more ways to find trouble.

Additionally, when our time to build relationships with the kids is limited, who will
establish more control? It stands to reason that AAU coaches and individual instructors
will. Many of those people have the right intentions, but many do not.
I have more faith in our high school coaches than I do in AAU coaches. I think most
high school coaches are in the game for the right reason and want to instruct our kids in
the right values. Make no mistake; something valuable will be lost there for our kids.

   F) We have a very crowded season as it is.

As you all know, a lot of things happen during basketball. We have Thanksgiving,
Christmas, and Mardi Gras (down South at least). Additionally, we have an exam week
which is essentially a dead week when it comes to games.

   G) My own personal View and Resolution (with no power attached but the power to
      spark debate!)

To me, we do have a long season. Few of us would argue against that. Personally, I have
no objection to starting practice a week (possibly even two weeks later) than we do now.
But three weeks is a heck of a lot.

Also, we do play quite a few games. I do not know about you, but our teams have only
played the maximum amount of five tournaments once and we found that to be brutal.
We probably are a little overboard when it comes to how many tournaments we are
allowed. I don’t have any major objections to the idea of 18 games and 4 tournaments.

I cannot, however, support any legislation that eliminates spring basketball nor any
legislation that takes three weeks from the start of our season. There is some room for
some give and take here, but all indications I receive are that basketball coaches’
suggestions are quickly tossed aside by the powers-that-be.

In my view, each coach in the state must be aware of these proposed changes and make
his principal aware of how he/she wants that administrator to vote. If you love Louisiana
high school basketball, I do not see any way that you can support the far-reaching nature
of these proposals. While I do not want to be seen as an alarmist who claims the sky is
falling, I can tell you that if these changes are enacted, basketball in our state will suffer,
and it may never be the same.

Thank you for your time and please feel free to send me your thoughts AND forward this
to other coaches. Let’s not lock up the gyms on the kids!

Coach Michael Toups
Catholic High School Baton Rouge

P.S. The proposal is on the web now. Go take a look for yourself. Baseball would also
lose three weeks from its season. Talk to your baseball coaches and have them talk to
your principal and to other baseball coaches.