Although State CIF laws prohibit high schools recruiting students, the passage of two California Assembly bills will create something akin to high school free agency.
By July, 1994, students statewide will be able to transfer without changing residences.
Assembly Bill 1114 requires public school districts to develop open enrollment policies by July. AB 19 permits local school boards to determine how many outside students they will accept, if any, and stipulates that transfers must be chosen at random.
Gov. Pete Wilson and AB 1114's author, Charles W. Quackenbush (R-San Jose), expect a new trend in California schools: specialization. Schools will encourage development in certain subjects such as math and science, fine arts and vocational education.
But such laws will also allow athletes to move from a school with, say, a poor basketball program to one with a good one under the guise of education.
Students will no longer be required to go to their neighborhood school and could instead go across town with ease. With a little more work, and little explanation, they could attend a school in another district.
A second-string point guard at Los Alamitos, for example, could attend Edison, where he might have a chance to start. That's a plausible scenario. That's free agency.
In this time of national concern about family and social values, I find that an important value is missing in athletics . . . commitment. This is evident in all levels of sports from youth leagues to the collegiate and professional levels. If open enrollment is allowed for purely athletic reasons, our young people will never learn this important value of commitment.
After my son Bryan's freshman year at Costa Mesa High School, we were tempted by the desire to place him in a high school with a more prominent sports program. Coaches, friends and colleagues all attempted to convince us to transfer Bryan to a "proverbial powerhouse" school.
Bryan was a good athlete with skills in football and baseball. Costa Mesa's reputation in these sports was mediocre. At that time, the feeling was that Bryan could only benefit by transferring to a school with a stronger sports program. However, he made the decision to stay at Mesa because of his commitment to his school, coaches, fellow athletes and friends.
I was concerned about his decision to stay, but it made me the proudest a parent could be because I knew it was the right thing to do, and despite all the logical reasons to "jump ship," he made the right decision. It was the right decision whether they had a winning or losing season.
As of today, Costa Mesa has won its first outright football league title in the school's history. I credit much of this accomplishment to the boys who stayed committed to each other and their school. In addition, Bryan has received a great deal of recognition for his athletic skills, earning all-league and other honors in football.
However, the most important aspect of this time is what Bryan has learned. He will enter the adult world having faced defeat, frustration and discouragement, but he rose above that by staying committed. He and his teammates have mastered "stick-to-itiveness," determination and the ability to overcome negative feedback. If every athlete "flitted" from school to school to find that winning program, how will they learn commitment, to follow through, to handle defeat as well as victory?
We, as parents, need to be as concerned about what values our children learn through athletics as we are about winning. Only a few will have athletic careers, but the values they learn in sports and school will follow them throughout their adult lives.