Sports Beat

Posted 6/1/22

Like all large complex undertakings, there are always areas to improve. The improvements are not in the student athletes or the actual competition, but rather in the method in which we stage the games. 

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Sports Beat


With another scholastic sports year closed out, it is time to clear out some miscellaneous notes.  

Covering sports in Wood County is a blast. The quality of competition is superb, the athletes and coaches authentic and talent amazing. Just a peak at the number of local athletes who have competed at the state level over the recent past reveals story after story of athletes who were talented and driven to succeed.

More so than judging the results, it is the day-to-day competitive fire demonstrated on playing fields and courts year-round throughout the county which make our sporting scene really special. Whether that is the resurgence of athletics in Quitman, the “never give-in” attitude at the Mineola field house or the guts and effort carried forward by Alba-Golden athletes regardless of the sport – we are indeed lucky to be witness to such competition. 

Like all large complex undertakings, there are always areas to improve. The improvements are not in the student athletes or the actual competition, but rather in the method in which we stage the games. 

A few such observations follow. Some are personal pet peeves about high school sports, some are recommendations on rule changes and some are just things which seem to be common-sense solutions.  So, in an effort to clear my notebook, your indulgence at the following points of interest is requested.

Playoff games

They are a big deal for our athletes in any sport. It only follows that staging of playoff games should receive the same level of attention. Although most schools do take excellent care in hosting playoffs, there have been notable exceptions from the Red River down to I-20.  

At one football game (three seasons ago) a large part of the bleachers could not be used due to having been the roosting site for migratory birds. It was a poopy situation and did not reflect well on the school hosting the event.

The larger issue with respect to playoffs is the continuing expansion of teams into the second season. A statistical analysis of the #1 - #4 seed football round would reveal some pretty damning conclusions. The same likely applies in basketball and volleyball. There are, of course, exceptions, as the Quitman Bulldogs boys basketball team or the Mineola Lady Jackets basketball both admirably demonstrated this year. 

However, the message communicated to our young athletes through expanded playoffs may be negatively interpreted as, “Being the best is not necessarily required, but being just good enough may be.” Alternatively, the message could be spun positively as, “Everything we do can lead us to the next level of competition, which is success.” Both messages are likely received by our young athletes. Retaining quality coaches is critical to ensure that such messages are properly communicated to our youth.   


Not much to critique here. The sport is surviving the gravitational pull to mimic the next level as best as it can. The replication of collegiate or professional sports at the scholastic level is by no means an improvement to scholastic football. The game should be different simply because it is being played by athletes who are often not yet mentally and physically mature.

One recommendation for consideration would be to simplify the sport. One new rule is proposed: teams are not allowed to substitute within a drive (injuries exempted of course). This would mean that the same 11 players would play each series. The players could change entirely series to series, but within one possession, the players would stay on the field – offense and defense.


While time-outs remain a needed and integral part of basketball, the number of time-outs allowed is simply killing the game. Let them play! A reduction in the number of time-outs is recommended – one time-out in the first half and three in the second half.

Especially in girls’ basketball, the present rules regarding tying-up the ball are counterproductive. The rule of alternating possessions allows the use of tying-up the ball as a means to create a turnover. Given that it is nearly impossible to tie-up the ball and not commit a foul in the process – it is possible, but not likely – we are in effect teaching how to commit reaching fouls. The trend must be reversed or the game will degrade.

The solution may end up being a combination of things. For instance, reducing the number of fouls available (from 5 to foul-out to 4) would greatly decrease the propensity to reach and grab. Other more creative options might include always awarding a tied-ball to the offense, but requiring the continuation of play to begin by inbounding the ball in the backcourt, regardless of where the tie-up occurred.

One last note about basketball. A volume limit should be placed on the music that is played before the game. As an industry standard, any noise above 80 decibels requires single hearing protection. The pregame music is unfortunately likely to stay, but it can be modified to normal workspace standards.

The diamond

With spring upon us, my old notes decrying the calling of every pitch by coaches have resurfaced. That ordnance has already been expended, so we’ll move on. 

It is happily noted that the use of walk-up music by high schools seems to be on the decline. Thank goodness, it communicated the wrong message of individualism in the middle of a team sport.

However, the huddling of softball and even baseball teams between innings is a troubling trend. While there are plenty of intricacies to both games, the perceived need to “huddle and rally” the troops is questionable.  

Alternatively, the old order given to British sea captains likely still applies, “Go forth and do the Queen’s will.”

Those arbitrary notes aside, the sporting season has again rewarded fans with exciting play and noble effort. Our local athletics programs tilt the ledger toward great hope for our nation due to the qualities demonstrated on the athletic fields. 

Conducting an individual interview or two throughout the year is always a humbling and awe-inspiring undertaking. The young men and women entering society from our local schools are impressive.