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Some Say Keeping Teammates Off the Same Teams During the Off-Season Slows Specialization; Others Don’t Want to Limit Athletes, So They’re Asking . . . : Is It Time to Rewrite the Rule Book? : CON: : Soccer Teams Don’t Want Loyalty Test

Times Staff Writer

The most outspoken supporters of the effort to repeal the Southern Section rules restricting the number of school team members who may play together on an outside team during the school year are among those who have lived with the rule the shortest time.

Though most sports have operated under the limitations for at least 10 years, such rules for soccer and water polo were passed only last May, in an effort to make the rules consistent in all sports.

But concern in the soccer community over the effect of the rules has sparked a new debate, and the Southern Section Council will vote Thursday on whether to repeal not only the soccer rules, but those affecting basketball, softball, water polo, volleyball and baseball.

Perhaps because other sports have operated so long under the restrictions, it has largely been soccer supporters and sympathetic administrators who have led the call for a repeal of the rules.

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Manny Toledo, Brea-Olinda High School soccer coach and a member of the Southern Section soccer advisory committee, has fought the rule since it was passed by the council last May, despite a unanimous recommendation by the soccer committee that it be defeated.

In a Southern Section Council meeting in February, the rules committee recommended after meeting with the soccer advisory committee that the soccer rule be repealed. In the ensuing discussion, William Brand, Trabuco Hills principal and the Pacific Coast League representative, proposed that the council--to remain consistent--reconsider the rules for all sports.

Though the rules will be considered as separate agenda items, The Times’ survey of the league representatives who will cast the votes indicates that most intend to keep the rules consistent. They say they will vote either to keep or repeal all the rules.

Toledo’s dislike of the rule is based largely on the thorough entrenchment of club soccer programs in the Southern Section. Because many club programs have been operating longer than the school programs and because players join the clubs long before they reach high-school age, Toledo and others in the soccer community say a player’s first loyalty will be to the club.

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Should the limit of five players from any club team on a high school team remain in effect, Toledo said, players will be forced to choose between the two teams.

Faced with that choice, many players will choose the club, Toledo said.

“It’s a bad rule and I think in the long run, if the rule stays, the quality of soccer at the high-school level and the club level is going to suffer because we’ll be splitting athletes in half,” Toledo said.

The rule does not affect water polo to the same extent it does soccer because of the timing of the season, said Bill Barnett, Newport Harbor water polo coach. The club water polo season until now has begun in May. Under the new rule, the clubs will begin the season after school is out to avoid having to comply with the limitations.

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Other sports have long operated under such rules.

Toledo also said such a rule is unfair to players in more rural areas, where there may be only one club team.

“Who’s going to say who gets to play?” Toledo said. “Who’s going to say who is the sixth man (the one who must drop off)?”

Brand, the principal who proposed that the council reconsider the rules in all sports, will cast his vote--representing the choice of the Pacific Coast League principals--against repeal Thursday, although he favors repeal.

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“My feeling is that it’s an individual choice,” Brand said. Brand also opposes the rule because it is difficult to police.

Other opponents point to enforcement as a difficulty of the rule.

“The athletic directors are a sitting duck for people wanting to manipulate the rule,” said Carey McDonald, executive director of the National High School Athletic Coaches Assn. “It places the athletic director in the untenable position of having to know everything about their players, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Said Ron Heiman, Santiago High School athletic director: “Who is going to police this rule? To be quite honest, I don’t believe the CIF is going to go around and check every private club to see who’s playing. The people that run the club want to put the best team on the field that they can, and I don’t think they’ll be concerned with any CIF rules.

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“Myself, I am not going to go around and check everyone in the league to make sure they meet up with the CIF guidelines. And then who’s going to take any action against the team? I just don’t see how they can enforce it.”

Toledo said he envisions a situation in which teams might try to find an opponent violating the rule, but not report the violation until near the end of the season, when forfeits would cause more damage.

But the ultimate argument of those who oppose the rule is that students should be able to choose what they do with their time.

“I think it’s up to a player and his family to decide, not a high school coach,” said Toledo, who believes some coaches are against club sports because athletes play on outside teams who would otherwise play a second school sport. “Whatever that kid wants to do outside, he has every right to choose.”

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