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Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017: Some thoughts and proposals floating around in N.Y.

   Leading off today: Three "think pieces" lead off today's blog.

   Do we need this? As I've noted in past blogs, I'm not a fan of the U.S. Soccer's Development Academy program. I understand their intent and their goals but despise the blunt-force trauma they've decided to inflict upon the high school brand of the sport.

   I'm not as vehemently opposed as I was at the start, but I still have no patience for a program that tears athletes away not only from their high school soccer teams but from the opportunity to play winter and spring sports as well. If I was the American soccer czar for a day, shutting down the academy system would be one of the first three items on my to-do list.

   That's why Wednesday's column by Jeff DiVeronica caught my eye. He's is veteran reporter on both the professional soccer and high school sports beats in Rochester. So when he writes about soccer, I pay attention.

   He wrote Tuesday, and he took no prisoners.

   "Teens are giving up making memories in school sports with friends and classmates they've known since they were toddlers because they're being sold a bill of goods about needing the academy to get better as players and catch the eye of college recruiters," he wrote. "News flash: If you're good enough, recruiters will find you. Trust me."

   The kicker -- pardon the quasi-pun -- is that the column takes specific aim at the girls portion of the academy program, and DiVeronica concedes that there's actually some merit to what the U.S. soccer braintrust is trying to accomplish on the men's side of the sport.

   Historically, the U.S. has lagged most of the developed world when it comes to success in men's soccer. That's not been remotely close to the case in women's soccer. Other countries are catching up and creating depth at the top in women's soccer, but the U.S. is always a threat to win.

   In that context, it's really hard to justify the need for a girls academy program.

   You can read DiVeronica's column here.

   Should they do this? Abraham Lincoln boys basketball coach Dwayne "Tiny" Morton believes a lack of competition within the state is a primary reason behind the annual migration of some top PSAL talent to prep schools in nearby states.

   To that end, Morton is proposing the formation of an eight-team PSAL super league and perhaps another eight-team, second-tier league to assure a slate of games that would compel college recruiters to make more frequent visits to New York City and even create sponsorship opportunities that could boost the PSAL.

   "I would put (teams) in the categories of eight," Morton told "So, you have your top eight for the last ten years."

   Morton's formula would package three Brooklyn teams, one from Manhattan, two from Queens and two from the Bronx based upon recent track records in city and borough Class AA championships. The next tier would include teams at the top of the Class A totem pole along with Class AA teams that just missed making the cut for the top division.

   Interborough travel during the week is one hurdle to overcome, but I'd be more worried about a different sort of travel, namely players transferring between schools. The PSAL already has player movement that can generously be categorized as "interesting" (and that doesn't even include the annual poaching of CHSAA talent), and this would make it worse. In essence, these super leagues might reduce the outflow to prep schools but just create more transfers within the city.


   Are we starting too soon? As is the case with the majority of high school organizations across the country, the NYSPHSAA operates on a calendar that gives school and sectional administrators a predictable annual schedule for the start of practices and the completion of championships in each sports season.

   The calendar renews each year on the first day of the first full week in July, and fall practice for schools can commence at the start of Week 7. If I recall correctly, that means that the latest start date for fall practice would fall on Aug. 19, which will be the case in 2019. At the other end of the spectrum, fall practice next year starts on Aug. 13.

   This year's start date was Aug. 14, and Nancy Haggerty at The Journal News raised the question of whether that cuts football site

too deeply into summer vacation. Understandably, more than a few people said "yes."

   "It's way too early. It digs into parents' and kids' summers," Clarkstown South AD Khris Arvanites said. "Kids need some time to themselves just to be kids, to go outside and be in the woods."

   Will an extra week in August make a November playoff run more likely? With so many athletes focusing on a single sport nearly year-round, Horace Greeley field hockey coach Sukhi Sandhu listened to his players and their parents. He let captains run optional practices last week and then opened official workouts this week with six days of intense work.

   "I don't think we missed out on anything," senior Fiona Grant said.

   That's why sections are free to set start dates later than what the NYSPHSAA calendar decides. If sections don't want to do it, then leagues can.

   And if leagues won't, then individual schools and even coaches within a school can choose to start later. If pushing back the start of the season creates concerns about cramming too many games into too short a season, then they can drop some non-league games. With the official fall and spring seasons shorter than the winter, soccer and lacrosse teams used to do that all the time in the 18-game era before recession-related cuts to schedules last decade.

   On the move: Upstate New York remains a net exporter of basketball talent this summer, but Section 3 is getting one back.

   Amani Free is returning to Cicero-North Syracuse next month after spending her junior year at Long Island Lutheran, reported. The 6-foot wing was ninth-team all-state in Class AA last season at LuHi.

   The website also reported that Free committed this week to Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.

   Following up: As expected following developments during the first week of football practice, Oriskany, Pulaski and Binghamton's Seton Catholic have all shifted from 11- to eight-man football, joining four Section 3 teams that made the switch early this year.

   ADs met Monday and on Thursday released a revised schedule covering the seven teams.

   New and improved: NYSPHSAA administrators held the first two of 11 annual mandatory meetings for athletic directors this week, covering Sections 5 and 6.

   There wasn't much new to discuss in the way of rules other than the New York State Education Department's decision to tweak the "duration of competition" regulation, but the rules manual itself got a much-needed revision.

   After having discussed it and then methodically conducting the overhaul, the NYSPHSAA has completely changed the way it presents its Handbook. They did away with the print version several years ago, and now the online PDF has been given a top-to-bottom scrubbing.

   It's shorter, better organized and enhanced with text links so that users will spend less time flipping back and forth to the table of contents to look up related topics. The NYSPHSAA was able to lop about one-third of the text from the new Handbook by cutting whole sections of Education Department regulations and instead creating links to the official documentation on the NYSED website.

   One of the better enhancements has to do with the way standards for 24 sports have been reorganized. Each sport continues to have its own subsection, but there's now greater consistency in the layouts. An AD needing to look up rules governing scrimmages can go to paragraph 13.09 in ice hockey, 14.09 in lacrosse, 17.09 in soccer, etc. Other topics are ordered in similar fashion.

   In addition, logos have been embedded into the PDF to help users distinguish between NYSPHSAA rules and NYSED regulations. Those who fail to see the value of that have never been served with lawsuits that should have instead been directed at the NYSED.

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