So much has changed in high school sports since the Southern Section voted to eliminate Rule 313 in 2008, otherwise known as the Association Rule.
The rule restricted coaches from working with their athletes out of season. You couldn’t coach your school’s players in off-season games let alone hold workouts after school. The one-hour gym class was it.
This is the 10th season of unregulated freedom. Like anything that changes, there’s good news and bad news to report.
The good is plenty of kids who couldn’t afford private coaches or play on club teams are receiving instruction and support from their high school coaches. Off-season competition has proliferated, from basketball to baseball to seven-on-seven football.
The bad news is that it has become tougher to be a multiple-sport athlete. Lots of coaches have turned their programs into a singular year-round commitment. Some students are being forced to join the crowd of endless practices and games except for the mandatory three-week break in the summer.
Sometimes there are too many off-season competitions, which can lead to burnout and injuries.
On Saturday, there were so many basketball games and tournaments taking place, you would never have known that the first official game isn’t allowed until Nov. 20.
It’s an interesting time for “old-timers” like Mike LeDuc, the basketball coach at La Verne Damien who’s been at it for 44 years.
“You just have to adjust,” he said. “In 1988, they put in the three-point shot. Some held out. I was fortunate. I had a kid named Tracy Murray. You accept it and adjust.”
The growing off-season time commitment was inevitable. You can’t discourage kids from wanting to get better, so eliminating the Association Rule was a no-brainer. It lets each coach and program implement its own schedule and put in restraints. That’s where a healthy medium must exist.
Meanwhile, fans are the big winners getting to see off-season competitions that can be as fun as a regular game.
Take Saturday’s eight basketball games at Cerritos College as part of the Rolling Hills Prep tournament.
The state’s No. 1 team, Santa Ana Mater Dei, played against one of its likely challengers, Chatsworth Sierra Canyon. Mater Dei was without 7-foot-1 center Bol Bol and point guard Spencer Freedman. Sierra Canyon won 90-85 and showed off Michigan transfer Duane Washington, who made a stunning nine three-pointers while scoring 33 points.
No team plays better defense than defending state champion Torrance Bishop Montgomery, which defeated Temecula Rancho Christian, 74-49.
It was the battle of the guards from morning to night. La Cañada St. Francis has sophomore Andre Henry, who’s 6-3, just 15 years old and with tremendous upside potential. He spent nearly two months this off-season dribbling just with his left hand trying to strengthen it “so I could feel as comfortable with my right as my left,” he said.
Fairfax defeated Pasadena 66-63, and what a guard duel it was. Jamal Hartwell scored 20 points for the Lions. Bryce Hamilton and Darius Brown of Pasadena had 24 and 22 points, respectively.
Cameron Shelton had 26 points in Damien’s 70-66 win over Santa Monica.
There were terrific games matching top athletes. Everyone is getting into shape in the so-called “off-season.”