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Sunday, July 31, 2016: Why meeting face-to-face matters

   Leading off today: Before I empty my notebook one last time in the aftermath of last week's trip to Turning Stone Resort, I'd like to offer a piece of advice to reporters on the high school sports beat:

   If you've never attended the annual NYSPHSAA Central Committee meetings, you should go at least once. There's a lot you can learn from seeing how the process plays out leading up to votes taken and proposals aired both at that meeting and down the road.

   Some of the stuff I'm referencing below started showing up on the radar two years ago and came to a vote Tuesday or Wednesday. Other topics that were labeled "discussion" or "informational" last week may follow the same path to adoption or quietly fade away after further consideration in the coming months. Either way, attending the annual meeting helps you to understand the hows and whys.

   Attending this year's meetings gave me a pretty good idea what the priority issues will be between now and the 2017 session up in the Thousand Islands region and connected me with some of the people most familiar with the specifics.

   Connecting the dots: The two days of meetings exemplified why it's a good idea to gather 75 or so people in the same room at least once a year to hash things out. Here's what I mean:

   Representatives from wrestling and swimming had already made brief presentations to the Central Committee. The swimmers currently keep unofficial team scoring at their season-ending championship meet, but they're seeking approval to formally award a team title in order to be able to submit coaches' names for national recognition. Wrestling wants to begin conducting a dual-meet championship in January 2018.

   Later on the agenda was another informational item, this time from the girls golf committee. Lo and behold, they were also expressing a desire to crown a team champion in a tournament.

   At that point, you could see the proverbial light bulb powering up just above cranium level. Had the three items started working their way through the pipeline spaced out over a few Executive Committee meetings, the first couple of requests might have sailed through. The third one, though, would probably have raised a question about sport-to-sport consistency, and it may have been too late to be sure the first two sports were in line with what the NYSPHSAA would prefer.

   So when the golf question was raised -- and remember that it was only informational rather than something that was ready for a vote -- the decision was made that the Championship Philosophy Committee should be consulted on all the prospective changes for the sake of consistency. It's something I alluded to last weekend when I previewed the meeting, and it's good management.

   Not so sexy, but necessary: Not everything that gets voted on when the Central Committee or Executive Committee meet can be characterized as headline-worthy, but some stuff nevertheless should be done. That was the case this week in Verona.

    • The Code of Conduct, a piece of paper athletes had to sign before they could compete in state championships was a good idea at the time but rendered moot over the past decade as more school districts formulated their own policies. So the Central Committee voted to do away with the Code of Conduct. In its place, ADs will sign a short and sweet form confirming that the school adheres to some basic policies.

    • It may be a bit counterintuitive, but less is more when it comes to the number of required practices for modified sports. The Central Committee last week reduced the number of practices needed before the first modified scrimmage. By doing so, they spread contests out over a slightly longer period -- resulting in more practice opportunities during the season, which should be the most import aspect of modified sports.

   Keep an eye on these: Shortly before the Code of Conduct report, the Central Committee heard reports on "cracker barrel" sessions held earlier in the day. Those sessions break attendees such as sectional executive directors and principals into smaller groups that hold discussions on a handful of topics.

   One of the topics was the Code of Conduct. With the consensus from the cracker barrel reports being that the existing document was no longer necessary, the ensuing Central Committee vote all the more easy.

   Check back a year from now to see where we are on the two other cracker barrel items -- combined teams and certification requirements for athletic directors.

   The number of schools combining to form a single team in some sports has been growing steadily (some would say too steadily), helped by a NYSPHSAA policy that doesn't require them to count 100 percent of the combined BEDS total for classification purposes. The cracker barrel groups didn't deliver a consensus, but their feedback did skew more toward "there might be a problem" than to "move on, there's nothing to see here."

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   An examination of the philosophy of mergers and combined teams is part of the newly approved five-year strategic plan, so this is going to get a closer look sooner rather than later.

   Though the New York State Athletic Admini-strators Association is bullish on the idea, there wasn't much of an appetite for mandating certification for ADs. Concerns cited in the cracker barrel reports included time demands and the fact that some school districts now combine the athletics position with other responsibilities.

   Warner Wolf would approve: We're a step closer to approval for video replays in one of the more unexpected places. Since the championships are videotaped anyway, the competitive cheerleading committee is seeking approval later this year to allow the limited use of replays.

   Coaches whose teams are assessed deductions during their routine would be able to request a video review. The catch would seem to be that the review request opens the entire routine to new scrutiny. So judges who miss an infraction the first time could catch it during video review and deduct additional points.

   A few things I did not know: By attending the meeting, you sometimes discover stuff that you would never otherwise learn or simply managed to overlook.

    • Bass fishing and eSports have been offered up as potential new competitions for NYSPHSAA consideration in recent months, though neither figures to join the ranks as official sports in the near future.

   Before you scoff at eSports, gaming is a significant slice of the so-called "tech rec" world, and Turner Broadcasting System has been showing weekly competition in "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive" among five-player teams.

   If it does become something that the NYSPHSAA takes a look at later, the presumption is that the fare would have to be something a bit more tame than the shoot 'em up games that dominate on home gaming systems.

    • The NYSPHSAA is reactivating its committee dealing with transgender rules as new wrinkles in what had previously been thought of as settled policy are emerging. In one case cited, a junior high student who was now self-identifying as male sought to compete on the girls modified track team.

   The request was denied per what the NYSPHSAA understood the State Education Department policy to be. However, the state education commissioner apparently pulled a 180 and ruled the student could compete on the girls team.

    • When the proverbial gavel came down at the conclusion of Wednesday's meeting, Stephen Broadwell's two-year term as president of the NYSPHSAA ended. He's been replaced by retired Orange Ulster BOCES Athletic Coordinator Jim Osborne, whose background includes stints as Section 9 treasurer and secretary. He was a teacher, coach at AD at Burke Catholic, where his boys soccer teams went 233-74-11 from 1977-93.

   Coming this week: With the new boys lacrosse classification cutoffs being ratified last week ahead of the 2017 expansion to four classes, there will be quite a bit of movement by teams. I'll try to get my arms around some of the changes as an illustration of how dramatic change can be.

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