Leading off today:
Most fall sports across much of the state commenced practice Monday for the upcoming high school season, but it looks as though Syracuse's Nottingham High was the first football team out of the gate.
The Post-Standard reported that Bulldogs coach Nick Patterson opened the first practice at 12:01 a.m. Monday, adding football to the lengthy list of sports that have given "Midnight Madness" a try. By the way, Nottingham drops down to Class A this season based on new enrollment figures.
Change comes to soccer: As has been tradition for awhile, many reporters around the state spent time checking out the first day of football practice. With no hitting allowed the first few days, one could argue that their time may have been better spent taking attendance at boys soccer workouts.
I touched on the topic previously, but The New York Daily News and Newsday both came back this week with explanations of a change on the pitch -- sorry, I can't get all the Olympic and UEFA 2012 jargon washed out of my head just yet -- that could be the beginning of the end for high school soccer as we know it -- with implications for some other sports down the road.
In short, the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, which has morphed into the latest talent evaluation program and training ground for the sports national body, modified its schedule this winter to a 10-month format; instead of opening up in November, the academy schedule will now be running from September to June. The clubs participating in the program have highly regimented training schedules that shift the emphasis away from games to intesnive practice, and participating players are barred from suiting up for their high school teams.
As The Daily News summarized, the number of boys affected is small, but the ones who do leave high school soccer are among the elite.
At Half Hollow Hills West, a six-time defending league champion, coach Doug Gannon says he's lost four starters to the Albertson Soccer Club, one of at least five academy operations with a presence on Long Island. In the PSAL, veteran MLK coach Martin Jacobson, who has won 13 PSAL Class A championships, could lose as many as eight players, though the actual number may be less than half that with the help of waivers -- but that exemption process is scheduled to end after this year.
The change in the U.S. Soccer Federation's approach to identifying and training elite young players has the potential to improve the U.S. National Team down the road and comes at the right time in the minds of those frustrated by the failure of the U.S. men to qualify for the recent London Olympics.
Though it could take as long as a decade to evaluate whether soccer has the right idea, those involved in other sports will be watching. Mark Koski, director of sports and events for the National Federation of State High School Associations, said this is the first time players in a sport are being told to stay away from high school competition.
"This is one of a kind," he told Newsday. "We're hopeful this is only a soccer situation."
In a letter to the USSF this spring, the National