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Commentary: Poor decisions hurt local student athletes
by Dan Eckles - Commentary
Dec 22, 2010 | 909 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It's been a relatively light start to our northern Nevada winter. We've had some snow flurries that made travel treacherous for an hour or two. Last Friday, it snowed hard enough to stick to roads and slick it up a bit until enough cars wore down the cold, wet stuff.

But we have not seen white flakes dumped on us for a prolonged period or pile up on our yards one or two feet deep. I'm knocking on wood right now as a I type this and hopefully, you do too as you read it.

Despite Mother Nature's easy go of it on us so far, there must be a few administrators at the Washoe County School District who have recently transferred in from Florida or southern California, folks not used to a little winter weather. And that's what we've had here, a little winter weather, by no means a lot or anything severe.

Still, WCSD officials have already nixed travel for athletic events twice, once in November that wiped out a full slate of middle school girls basketball games across the Truckee Meadows. The other occasion was last weekend.

Representatives from the district's Executive Cabinet, which is made up of various department heads, made the decision to scrap all district transportation to and from events and to cancel all district athletic events on both occasions.

Both decisions were serious over reactions. District leaders can always fall back on saying “we were putting student safety first and that's not something we take lightly.” In some instances, that's a cop out.

I'll be the first to admit there certainly are instances where district travel should be shut down for safety reasons. We've seen them in Washoe County time and again, but probably not in the last month.

School leaders in Wyoming, Colorado and Minnesota would be laughing at us.

When the district shut down athletic travel last month for the middle school games, the skies were sunny and blue in most of Sparks, Spanish Springs and north Reno. Last weekend, the controversial decision was made Friday morning to cancel all travel and events for Friday and Saturday. The main roads around Reno and Sparks were well maintained and serviceable by Friday afternoon and Saturday the temperatures warmed up with clears skies, making roads easy to use.

District leaders need to use some common sense and at least on some occasions look at athletic events on a case-by-case basis. This might take a little more time, but it is what is best for student-athletes.

I know last month, on the aforementioned occasion, it got quite breezy and snowy for an afternoon period in south Reno, making travel tough and even unsafe during a stretch. So the district should have canceled middle school girls games in the areas where travel was unsafe, not all across town. Considering only a few schools were affected by the inclement weather, that would have been a safer and better solution than over reacting to cancel all events that day.

Last weekend, the district reacted way too early Friday in canceling events for both Friday and Saturday. They should have just canceled district travel for Friday and not Saturday. A number of wrestling and basketball teams missed out on events on Saturday when road conditions were fine.

Additionally, the district forced basketball tournaments at Reno and Sparks high schools to shut down. Both events had out-of-area teams already in town ready to play. In fact, they had already played Thursday night.

The district's decision did not allow tourney organizers to get those teams already in town a game. So those schools were left out in the cold. The district would not have been put out or jeopardized safety by allowing tournament officials to get those teams a game. For example, host Sparks could have played Escalon, Calif. and Elko could have played Placer, Calif.

Those out-of-area teams had to choose to drive home a day early, in poorer weather Friday than Saturday, or stay and not even play.

The district should have allowed the tournament organizers some leeway to do the right thing. It is hard enough for local schools to convince out-of-area opponents to come to Reno-Sparks in the winter. Decisions like this will make them less likely to give it a shot.

By having their tournaments wiped out, Reno and Sparks lost a vital fund-raising tool as well as some credibility.

I hope that when we get some real winter weather in the coming months, WCSD leaders don't again make a blanket decision that hurts more than it helps.

Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune's sports editor. He can be reached via email at:
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