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Editorial: NHIAA, and parents, need perspective

The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association is badly in need of a public relations makeover.

Parents could use a little help, too.

On the heels of its battle with Pembroke Academy over allegations of improper recruiting, the state’s governing body of high school athletics now finds itself in the unenviable position of telling a group of talented young basketball players they are not allowed to play in the Sam Carey All-Star Classic.

The game is an annual showcase hosted by Matt and Luke Bonner to raise money for the brothers’ Rock on Foundation, a nonprofit that serves to increase community athletic and artistic opportunities. This year, the state’s best high school players would have helped refurbish dilapidated public courts in Manchester simply by participating in the showcase.

But good intentions are worthless when it comes to Bylaw Article II, Section 10, of the NHIAA Handbook: “The NHIAA does neither sanction nor endorse any All-Star team or competition in any sport at any level.” Section 10 goes on to say that any player who violates the rule risks losing his or her eligibility for one year.

Inflexible rules are often the enemy of common sense, and that is certainly the case here. On its website, the NHIAA claims that it was created “to establish the state athletic programs as an integral part of the entire school curriculum.” We would hope that any organization that sees itself as a contributor to a student’s overall education would recognize the value of encouraging charitable acts.

Jeff Collins, director of the NHIAA, said he had no choice but to enforce the rule, while parents of the basketball players accused the organization of malevolence. Neither claim is completely accurate.

The game is scheduled for Aug. 22. The moment Collins realized that it may put the eligibility of players at risk, he should have contacted event organizers to work on a solution. Instead, he issued his ruling and told Monitor reporter Ray Duckler that “we’d reach out to organizers to find out how we can work together down the road.” But why down the road? Why not at the very moment he became aware of the situation? Why not now for this event still 10 days away?

Rigid subservience to a handbook isn’t leadership.

But that said, it’s not fair to accuse the NHIAA of bullying, as one parent did. It’s easy to find bad intentions when that’s what you are looking for, but that doesn’t make it the right way to assess a situation. Collins may not have seized the opportunity to broker a solution, but he cannot be accused of overstepping his authority. The rule is clear, and his warning to players protected them from possible sanctions.

It’s also wrongheaded to demand more oversight of the NHIAA, especially by a government agency. A new layer of bureaucracy hardly seems like the best way to make an organization more responsive to concerns and criticism.

Adults behaving badly is not an uncommon occurrence, but it is always a little more distasteful when kids are caught in the middle. The NHIAA must start embracing the desire to say “yes” rather than “no,” and parents and players must resist the urge to demonize an organization that exists in large part to ensure that integrity and fairness are the pillars of high school sports in New Hampshire.

If nothing else, this is an excellent opportunity for all involved to demonstrate how sensible adults work together to solve problems.

Legacy Comments1

The players shouldn't be bound by NHIAA rules on endorsements. That should apply to the organisation only, not players who usually have no direct involvement with NHIAA other than in the games they play. Let them participate. That said, we do need rules in place to prevent recruiting of players in high school. That is a very very bad precedent and circumstance.

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