Thursday, June 24, 2010

Boo on the NSSF!

I'm back! I should mow my lawn more. That's where I start to thinking about track things and the next thing you know I'm furious about some mundane little issue that would take hours to explain to my innocent neighbor who is mowing his (better-looking) lawn at the same time.

For instance, today I want to share my excitement about the US Junior Nationals. But before I even go there, I have to vent about the whole "international meet in Puerto Rico" concept that is sponsored by the otherwise good folks at the National Scholastic Sports Foundation.

Here goes: the NSSF is a terrific organization that has done a TON for high school track in America. They created the indoor nationals, as well as the meet that is currently known as the New Balance Outdoor Nationals. They have also worked hard to provide international competitive opportunities for American preps. All good.

However, they now also put together a team to compete at the Caribbean Invitational in early June. They called it Team NSSF, and the kids get uniforms that look like real USA uniforms. This year, they put kids on the team even though it would cause them to miss their state finals. Bad. Very bad.

That happened with two top Michigan athletes. One is Dynasty McGee, and her story is complicated. She started the season competing for Lincoln High, and at the end of the season she wasn't on the team. I don't know the whole story and I honestly don't want to, so DON'T EMAIL ME!!! The other Puerto Rico athlete is Kyra Jefferson, another phenomenal athlete. According to NSSF sources, athletes with conflicting state meets weren't put on the team unless their high school coaches gave them permission.

I don't know the details of Jefferson's case, but there's some troubling flags flying. For starters, had she been at the D1 state finals, the results would have been considerably different. Her team, Cass Tech, finished tied for 45th place with three points. With her present, I think we would have seen her score a double win in the sprints, add a win in the 4 x 2, and possibly a win or a high placing in the 4 x 1 (they were in the fast heat). Let's say Cass Tech scores 40. They would placed 4th overall, lowering the scores of Rochester and Rockford but not changing the order. Perhaps the biggest losers were the Cass Tech relay members who didn't get to celebrate a victory.

Why would an athlete voluntarily skip the state finals? I can't imagine why an athlete would do so, and I hope we never see it again. To better their scholarship potential? Garbage. What a college coach sees in a situation like this is someone who is not there when their team needs them.

Or maybe it's the honor of representing the United States of America in international competition. Again: garbage. Only USA Track & Field is authorized to send true national teams abroad. That's why they pick the Olympic team--federal law mandates that. A team that is put together by the NSSF--while at no cost to the athlete--is about as official as the old sports tour scams ("give us $5000 and we will put you on an international track team competing in Europe"). Heck, give me $500 and I'll make you a Team USA jersey and find some Canadians in Windsor to race you. And guess what... the competition in Windsor will be about as good as what they faced in Puerto Rico (which is part of the United States anyways, but that's another rant).

So, Jeff, you're thinking... been drinking caffeine today? Under a lot of stress at home? Wife making you do dishes? Gave up caffeine... on vacation... and my wife's been very nice to me lately. I think I'm just ticked off at people who think it's somehow good for kids to tear them away from their state meets so they can compete against a team of Caribbean JV all-stars. Shame on them.

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