February 23, 2018
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MPA needs flexibility on policy


It’s hard not to sympathize with Mike Fogarty.

The Houlton boys varsity basketball coach wanted to coach his daughter at her off-season tournaments this spring, but because of his coaching duties with the boys team this winter while she played on the Houlton girls varsity he couldn’t because it would be in violation of Maine Princi-pals’ Association policy.

So Fogarty made what was both an easy and most difficult decision — he resigned his Houlton High post so he can coach his daughter next spring.

What’s ironic is that if Amanda Fogarty weren’t a member of the Aroostook County-based Presque Isle Catz, her dad would be able to coach that team this spring because there’s no one else from Houlton on the squad.

That’s right. Mike Fogarty couldn’t coach the Catz because his daughter is on the team, and the only reason he wanted to coach the Catz was because his daughter is on the team.

But since Fogarty coached at Houlton and his daughter played the same sport for a different team at the same high school during the same sports season her dad can’t coach her in that sport out of season anywhere in Maine.

So much for fostering a family environment.

The MPA’s Sports Season Policy is designed to provide for as varied a high school athletic experience as any student wants, free from the pressure of any coach who might want a player to concentrate on his or her particular sport.

And it was the overzealousness of a few coaches years ago that prompted a tightening of the policy that left Fogarty facing an untenable coaching choice.

The MPA Sports Season Policy was meant to keep coaches from coaching their high school teams beyond their designated seasons.

But when coaches of the same sport at the same high school began switching teams after the designated season — i.e. the boys basketball coach took over the girls team in the spring, and vice versa — the policy was adapted to make all players of a sport at a school off limits to coaches at that school rather than just the players on the coaches’ high school teams.

Fogarty was not trying to circumvent the spirit of any policy. If he’s guilty of anything, it’s not anticipating how the MPA would interpret his case relative to its rules, otherwise he might have approached the governing body about the situation before his daughter entered high school.

Instead his recent appeal to the MPA’s Interscholastic Management Committee for a waiver that would have allowed him to coach his daughter was denied, so he hasn’t coached his daughter this spring and now he won’t coach at Houlton next winter.

There clearly is a middle ground here, such as the MPA accommodating parents and children in similar coach-player relationships — so long as there are no other players on the off-season team from the school where the player plays and the coach coaches during the interscholastic sea-son.

The IMC told Fogarty in the aftermath of its decision that it would revisit the Sports Season Policy, so the possibility exists that change might come.

And it should.

One of the bigger issues in education these days involves the gradual disconnect between many children of junior high and high school age and their parents and how it affects the youngsters both in and out of the classroom.

Here’s one case that clearly defies that trend, and it should be nurtured through administrative flexibility rather than rejected through rigidity.

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