Things to Know as the High School Season Approaches

The high school volleyball season is rapidly approaching. This can be a very intimidating time of year for players at every high school, as they begin to question themselves and their abilities. Some have goals for making varsity, to find themselves heartbroken when it is time for coaches to form the team. On top of volleyball, student athletes have quite the plate of emotional stress on them during this time. Such worries include the rapidly approaching year of challenging academics, reconnecting with old friendships, and even having to give up the summer luxury of sleeping in every day. Regardless of what goes on in their minds, tryouts week is one of the most stressful times in any student athlete’s life.

In order to prepare for tryouts, many schools operate throughout the summer, providing open gyms and summer camps for extra practice. There are other opportunities for players too, such as beach volleyball, which has become very popular. There are endless ways for a player to practice throughout the summer, and there is no pressure for players to do so. Some love the sport and welcome the opportunities. Others choose to enjoy their summer in other ways. Players that choose not to participate throughout the summer, should never be criticized for doing so. Not by coaches, players, or even family members. Unfortunately, choosing to not give up these precious summer moments presents a large risk of making a high school team to many players. There have been coaches that use summer programs (prior to tryouts) to predetermine which player will be on which team, largely affected by attendance. Some coaches even sit down with the player or parent and inform them of which team they will make long before tryouts even occur. This act of predetermining teams is not only extremely unfair, it is also against OSAA (Oregon School Activity Association) rules. What makes it worse is that many of the players being informed of their positions are not aware of this serious violation. 

Tryouts have been known to break many hearts. Each year, new players and old players show up with hopes of making a team. Sadly, some schools may have already chosen those teams well before tryouts, making the hours of difficult effort put in by players absolutely worthless. However, the heart wrenching violations do not end here. Many players in the season prior may have been told by their coach that they must play club volleyball at a certain club in order to have a chance at being on a team the following year. This, again, is extremely unfair, but it is also against OSAA rules. Players are led to believe that where they play club determines what they will play at school regardless of skill, effort, or qualifications. Imagine all the pressures stated above in the first paragraph, and add pressure from a coach/ club owner. Do these impressionable teenagers deserve to be put through this unnecessary and harsh stress? This kind of negative pressure has no place in volleyball programs or any high school sports. School sports are meant to express positive athletics, not cruel mental olympics.

High school athletic departments are self regulating, and OSAA creates a set of rules for schools to follow, in order to make athletics the best they can be for students. Follow this link to read about OSAA’s rules and handbook
. Self regulating means that the athletic director of each school is required to submit violations that they or others have witnessed. There are schools that choose to be honest, but there are schools that choose to not be honest. The athletes at each school are mostly unaware of the rules governed by the OSAA and It is up to the athletic director and coaches to follow the rules and to make certain that athletes are aware of them. However, athletes are still often unaware that they are put into positions that may jeopardize their school. When a violation occurs, generally, the entire sports program is penalized. It can be a financial penalty, forfeiture of games, and even a season-long suspension. Not only does the player who unknowingly participates in a violation suffer, but the entire sports program suffers as well. Many of the rules governed by the OSAA are enforced throughout the entire academic year. It is important to know that even If a sport’s season is over, that does not mean that the rules stop. 

 Fortunately now, there is an anti-bullying solution put into place for student athletes. The Oregon Legislature has taken action and constructed a bill that requires the OSAA to create a reporting and resolution process for bullying. The OSAA constructed a process during their Executive Summer Workshop. Players can notify OSAA when bullying of any kind from players, coaches, or even parents occur. Bullying can be physical, verbal, social and cyber. Bullying came to the forefront this past academic year during a high school basketball game between two 5a schools. There were racial slurs remarked by students of an opposing school. This made headlines in the news, causing the Oregon Legislature to construct this bill. By the time this coming school year begins, this process will be complete. Coaches, players, teachers and spectators shall not bully at any OSAA activity. This includes practices, games, off season events, etc. Anyone who attempts to intimidate a player, should be reported through the new reporting method. Follow this link for more information on this new complaint method. Intimidation is a form of bullying and should not be tolerated. High school coaches should not bully or threaten players into playing for specific clubs, and this new method will thankfully give a voice to those players who are negatively approached by these coaches.

At the end of the day, student athletes already have too many things to worry about. They do not deserve added stress from coaches who threaten to take away athletic opportunities just because of where they play club. Coaches, athletic directors, players and even parents are responsible for creating a positive and effective program for all players, even those who do ultimately get cut. This should be absolutely free from any kind of intimidation. As we head into the new academic year, I hope that all students are successful in meeting their athletic and academic goals. They need to know that there are people in this crazy world who do care for them and we want them to become strong, successful, and smart adults coming out of these athletic programs.

-Charlie Bottita