THE ST. LOUIS PUBLIC HIGH LEAGUE, AN ABYSS OF INCOMPENTENCEI might have missed a couple, but has anyone noticed that the only high school football games around the state of Missouri that got canceled and will not be made up from this weekend were those involving St. Louis Public High League (PHL) schools? The district administration started canceling Friday and Saturday games on Wednesday because of the FORCAST of heavy rains! I spent a year at Roosevelt High School and I will tell any coach that is not satisfied with the support and dedication of the administration in your district, go and spend a year in the PHL. What a joke! Say what you want about Floyd Irons, but I tip my cap to anyone who could build a national power within the landscape of this waste land. Whatever is the easiest way to do something, with the least amount of effort from the boy’s downtown, is how it will be done. Guaranteed. Every time.
What about the kids on the PHL teams? What about the kids on the opposing non-PHL teams that are also affected by this? What does this do to the new playoffs system? There are some excellent coaches in the PHL. On the grass roots level, I encountered many that care about the kids on their team. However, the upper levels in the St. Louis Public Schools are a deep abyss of incompetence; a farce and a total waste of tax payer money.
On a side note: The district admitted this week they “won” a law suit against former Board President Veronica O’Bryan that cost the district over $320,000 in lawyer’s fees and could have been settled for $20,000 out of court and without the lawyers. Forgive the rhetorical questions, but who won in this case? As always, the lawyers. Who got screwed? As always, the kids of the PHL. How many uniforms could $300,000 have bought? Maybe even a few rain ponchos, as well.
Below is what I wrote back in 2008 in the book Riding the Storm Out: A Year of Inner City High School Football (www.davealmany.com, to purchase a copy.)
The only way to rebuild the PHL is to blow it up, completely wipe out the status quo and start anew. I would, as (Demetrious) Johnson first suggested to me, fire everyone, coaches and athletic directors alike. I would open up every position in the PHL and those employed in the past would be welcome to reapply. I would hire back maybe 5% of the current staff. The others can find some other form of employment. That may sound harsh, but the lost student opportunities, under the current PHL regime, is almost criminal for the damage it is inflicting upon the students under its auspices, and thus pleadingly calls for such drastic, but justifiable, measures.
If you are to coach in my PHL, then you must put kids first. I want boat rockers. I want advocates for kids. I want professional educators who have a driving passion for their athletes; willing to invest their emotional blood, sweat, and tears for the betterment of their players. I want a whole staff full of Coach Campbell’s. I would demand that every coach set high expectations, willing to lead the athletes they coach to the commitment and the self-discipline needed to be a champion.
My coaches and athletic directors will not take “no” for an answer. The athletes in my PHL deserve the best and it is their coaches and athletic directors’ responsibility to see that the athletes receive nothing less, and raise hell until they get their just due. I want coaches who will demand better equipment, better uniforms, safe and adequate practice and game venues. (Where will I get this money, I am sure I will be asked? Let’s go one year without hiring a “consultant” to do a “facilities study”, would be my recommendation. The cool million or so we save will nicely revamp my PHL). I want coaches who will promote their athletes. That starts with the simple task of reporting scores to the media. In my PHL, you can bet that scores will be called in to the media.
In my PHL, coaches would bring pride into their player’s lives. I want coaches who will work tirelessly to help those children under their leadership visualize that athletics can be a means to an end. My coaches will be expected to network with college coaches to get their students the exposure they need to attract a college scholarship. I was told the story of one varsity basketball coach in the PHL, who had held his position for 13 years and had sent a grand total of three athletes to college basketball programs. If true, then this is totally unacceptable in my PHL.
And yes, winning does play into the evaluation equation.
Wins and losses should never be the final and only evaluation tool for validating a high school athletic program, but it is important. In my PHL, coaches will be evaluated on the performance of their teams. It happens all the time in high school sports around this nation, coaches are dismissed because of losing performances by their teams. In the 2008-2009 season, from the best data I could find since few scores were ever reported to the media, the Roosevelt girls basketball team played only 13 games – county schools played up to 32 - losing all 13, several where they scored, as a team, under 10 points. One game they lost 66-5. Why even have a program? Who is benefiting from such a travesty?
My message: we can do better - and we must do better.