Practice on Veteran’s Day? It’s all a matter of schedules

Opportunities to build character are ceaselessly present in education sports. Imbedded in sports are everlasting character-building openings that are more important than the scores of the last or next game.

Coaches, players, parents and schools accept the importance of sharing the responsibility for promoting and adhering to core values of a moral and learning community. It’s natural for sports teams to form a special, caring community.

Education sports can embrace moments of significant remembrance, which can become a turning point in the building of positive character. 2001 has become a reminder of special debts of gratitude.

During the World Series, I discovered myself standing before my TV set during the national anthem. I thanked classmates Roy Johnson, Ernest West, Bob Bush and Coach Roberts. Only Bob Bush, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, came home.

Coach Roberts taught us to stand still and tall during the pledge of allegiance and singing of the national anthem. He taught players how to respect and appreciate.

Government offices, banks and schools shut down to show respect for Veterans’ Day, which was observed as a holiday on Monday. There must be very good reasons why schools and coaches decided to hold their first day of required winter sports practice on that day.

The pros and the cons:

For the safety of players, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association requires each player to participate in 10 days of practice before being eligible for competition. Solid and reasonable early-season injury research, as well as legal liability protection, justifies the rule.

Since the 10-day requirement is relaxed for players participating in the state championship playoffs, is the message that state playoffs are more important than Veterans’ Day? No, not really, but maybe the game schedule is.

Research shows lack of conditioning can lead to early season injuries. Courts have ruled that failing to adhere to such WIAA rules is negligence.

On holidays and other special occasions, schools generally continue turnouts, and in some cases actually expand practice time. Some coaches have no-tolerance policies about missing practice.

So, would calling off practice on Veterans’ Day 2001 be an act of negligence? No, not really, but postponing, rescheduling, or canceling a game might be too great of a disruption to the season. There is also the keep-up-with-your neighbor factor.

Policy and precedence would be broken. Although WIAA member schools make the rules, local school boards and administrators oversee their programs. The WIAA does not take a statewide position on practicing on holidays. Some coaches have rationalized practice on Christmas Day, reasoning that schools must separate religion and sports. Besides, holiday tournaments have become very popular.

So, since schools generally practice on Veteran’s Day, should 2001 have been any different? Apparently no, not really. Keeping youth occupied and business-as-usual is of higher priority.

Yes, I know schools have been excellent in recognizing Veterans’ Day and those to whom we owe an unpaid debt of gratitude. Yes, I know many coaches do an excellent job of character education. Still, there appears to be a perception that education sports is marching to its own drummer.

Perceptions are real. They may not be accurate, but they are real. When practice is held higher in importance than families, holidays, funerals, patriotism and character development, schools have failed to seize an opportunity to use sports to educate.

The character of sports itself is a natural means to teach and learn. Great coaches insist character education of players include:

  • Promotion of ethical values.

  • Opportunities for moral action.

  • Development of intrinsic motivation.

  • Teaming and sharing of responsibilities.

  • Building team character one player at a time.

  • Feeling, thinking, and believing.

    Education sports can focus on building better people. That focus appears to be drifting toward building character by requirement rather than willing promotion of a core of ethical values.

    Coaches and teams marching alongside veterans on their day, as many do, are in the company of champions. We all win.

    Cliff Gillies, former executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, writes weekly during the school year for The Herald. His mailing address is 7500 U.S. Highway 101, South Bend, WA 98586. His e-mail address is

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