For those of you not familiar with what a "no-cut" policy means, it dictates that anyone and everyone who tries out for an athletic team makes the team. No one is "cut" and all get a chance to participate.
This concept of giving opportunity to ALL interested athletes wanting to participate in competitive sports, up through high school, is certainly an initiative worth taking a look at.
I wholeheartedly agree, in principle, with the idea that the positive learning experiences, intrinsic values, and life lessons taught through participation in sports behooves us to examine the possibility of "no-cut" policies across the board.
However, as the title of this blog implies (and as with most absolutes), the practicality of such a proposal raises many questions which significantly impact its realities.
Below is a list of just a few of these realities that need to be addressed, and tackled with feasible solutions, in order for broad-based, no-cut policies to be safely implemented. At least if we want them to positively impact our youth sports culture, especially at the high school level.
Each and every sport brings with it specifics that impact the viability of keeping every athlete who tries out. Based solely on the type of training, and how this training is accomplished, cross country running will have a much easier time accommodating larger numbers than say a sport like gymnastics where pieces of apparatus are used to train.
For the most part, only one athlete can train at a time on any apparatus in gymnastics, while a whole team of almost any number can run a cross country training course set up by the coach, and all at the same time.
Most sports do not have this extreme type of logistical spread between them (with regard to this issue). However, when you examine each sport individually, you will certainly find differences that either enhance or detract from the possibility of keeping all who want to participate, thereby decreasing the feasibility of having a no-cut policy as an absolute.
Attention / Instruction / Learning
If all sports adopt a no-cut policy, and large numbers come out for a team, how will the coach (or coaches) be able to give proper and equitable attention and instruction to all athletes who need it?
Will practices have to be lengthened for all to get through drills, on the event or field, and/or use the equipment that is available?
It is a fact that correct/proper continuous repetition breeds the muscle memory needed for consistent high-level performance. However, the key words in that sentence are "correct/proper continuous repetition."
How will athletes get the necessary repetition time, and coaching, to build their muscle memory with the large number of athletes that having no-cuts would encourage?
If these questions cannot be answered with efficiency and effectiveness in mind, and no-cut policies are adopted across the board, then many competitive sports could start to look a lot more like intramurals and open gym-type programs than anything else.
One solution to this issue above (one that supporters of no-cut policies encourage) is to simply create more teams and levels for all the new participants. However, a format that includes more teams and levels generates a whole new set of issues.
Presently, at least in my area of the country, it is difficult to find and hire qualified and willing coaches for many of the sports that are offered.
My high school alone has approximately 32 sports offered for both boys and girls, all of which need anywhere from two to seven or eight coaches (depending on the sport). It has gotten to the point within the last several years that the school has to look outside the school system to find qualified people to coach.
This in itself can pose an issue, especially when the outside coach hired does not seem to have a vested interest in the athlete as a student athlete. The risk of less focus on academics is much greater with a coach that is not a teacher or does not teach in the building where the athlete is a student.
So if we are having trouble getting qualified individuals to coach the teams we have now, how is it that we are going to find coaches to handle the increased number of athletes? And if we go with more teams and levels, where will we find the coaches to handle them?
This is a perfect example of how a solution to one problem (as mentioned under the previous heading) creates a completely different set of concerns.
Sport, Attention/Instruction/Learning, and hiring enough qualified Coaches only represent three obstacles to an "everyone makes the team" type policy; there are more.
For the final word on this timely issue, stay tuned to the second half of No-Cut Polices: Absolute or Independent Practice? / Realistic or Idealistic coming the end of this week.