Even though it has been 13 years since I last coached high school varsity basketball, I still get that urgent feeling to get the season started. Monday is the opening day of the 2013-14 basketball season as teams start their first day of tryouts,
Up to the early 1970s, schools had five weeks of preseason in November/December before their first regular season game.
Today, because of the Maine Principals’ Association Sports Season Policy, coaches have only three weeks to select their teams through tryouts, get the needed conditioning done, get their offensive and defensive schemes in, and to select their starters and first-line subs.
This is a rush job, especially for a sport that has to go through the cutting process to select its teams.
Prior to the early 1970s, there was no sports season policy except for the starting date for any sport.
One of the reasons that the sports season policy was established was because some spring coaches at that time didn’t like basketball players playing basketball during the beginning of the spring sports season.
The Bangor Y started holding its annual postseason undergrad basketball tourneys in 1954. These tournaments were held on weekends at the YMCA and high school basketball coaches could coach their teams. The tourney started the weekend after the state finals and was finished the first weekend in April.
These games did not interfere with spring sports because spring sports did not even start until the middle of March and the basketball games were played on weekends. However, some spring coaches complained to the principals association and thus the sports season policy was introduced.
Any postseason undergrad tournament now has to be done without high school coaches, equipment, uniforms or school facilities.
For nearly 17 years, this was how basketball was played in the spring until non-school basketball started in the early 1990s.
Non-school basketball has grown so big statewide that there are now fall programs during weekends.
Talk about interfering with spring and fall sports. Many high school basketball players play non-school basketball instead of playing a fall or spring sport or play on weekends while playing a fall/spring sport even though many coaches wish they didn’t.
The spring coaches in the 1970s should have been careful what they wished for as their complaint really made it worse for the fall and spring coaches of today.
Basketball today in the off-season certainly interferes more for the fall and spring coaches than it did prior to the establishment of the sports season policy.
Now it is quite ironic that all sports have only three weeks for preseason except for baseball and softball coaches, who get four weeks. This is supposedly because of pitchers needing more time to get ready for the season.
Any sport that needs cardiovascular conditioning and is a contact or collision sport needs the extra week as much as baseball and softball pitchers.
Is the MPA discriminating against the other sports? The MPA could correct this by adding a week and making a four-week preseason for all sports.
This is an ideal compromise as it is right in the middle of the old rule of five weeks and today’s rule of three weeks.
Bob Cimbollek is a retired high school basketball coach and is a basketball official.