Conversation Can Reveal Character Better Than Web Essay

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A spat involving how athletes should be chosen for postseason honors has pitted some members of the Arizona Football Coaches Association against the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

The AIA apparently wants coaches to select all-division and all-section honorees in a new, online voting process, while some coaches around the state want to continue selecting players in informal meetings as they have done for decades.

In the AIA method, coaches from around Arizona would enter the names of their all-section and all-division nominees on a Web site, along with a short essay about each player and his accomplishments.

Coaches would then vote on a computer prior to a pre-determined deadline and those athletes with the most votes would be named to the all-section or all-division teams.

There are members of the AzFCA who take exception to the AIA’s newly proposed method and would like to continue selecting honorees in face-to-face meetings among all coaches in their respective sections or divisions.

For example, football coaches in the now defunct 3A East gathered at the end of each season at a common meeting place to nominate and select the All-East team.

A similar method was used when naming the all-state team.

While there were some parent and fan disagreements concerning the selections, the integrity and veracity of coaches was almost never questioned.

Tolleson’s Mike Brown is among the coaches to take exception to AIA’s online voting suggestion.

In an e-mail to AzFCA members he wrote, “We are doing all section like we have done all regions in the past how it should be done: coaches talking about kids and voting in person.”

He also contends it’s important that voting remains entirely in the hands of the coaches and not with a state entity.

Brown supports continuing the face-to-face voting method by writing, “There is no bylaw in the AIA that says we have to do (online voting).”

The coaches in Brown’s section have apparently rejected the AIA’s online methods and will continue to vote in meetings as they have for decades.

Around the state the debate continues over which method coaches should use.

Some athletic directors took exception to Brown’s e-mail including Estrella Foothills’ Derek Fahleson who followed up the Tolleson coach’s e-mail with one that read, “(Coaches) should be held accountable to follow the process that they are asked to do by utilizing the online voting process.”

He also rankled more than a few feathers when he wrote that coaches are employees of the districts who should be mandated to vote online rather than “doing their own thing.”

Payson High AD Gary Fishel apparently is siding with the AIA process, e-mailing PHS coaches to say the meet-and-discuss method of past years “wouldn’t be official.”

He also wrote he wholeheartedly agreed with Fahleson.

As a former high school head football coach I’m absolutely convinced the meet-and-discuss method that has been done for years is by far a better selection process than online voting.

Those of us who have sat in those voting meetings to campaign for our nominees in a give-and-take, question and answer atmosphere understand the process is mostly fair, impartial and often brings out characteristics and uniqueness of players that cannot be included in the 300-word essay.

For example, I remember one football coach, now retired, who efused to cast a vote for a player with character issues.

He openly referred to them as “outlaws,” meaning they had probably had run-ins with the law or school officials, possibly had experimented with drugs or were discipline problems for teachers or parents.

His reasoning for not voting for them was that those named to all-region and all-state teams should not only be good football players but good citizens and students as well.

In those coaches’ meetings, the only way he and fellow coaches could learn of the character of a nominee was to question his coach.

In online voting there is no question and answer debate, which renders the process fallible and imperfect.

Also, when coaches nominate offensive linemen, there are obviously no statistics, figures or data — other than height and weight — to reinforce why other coaches should vote for the player.

If I’m a coach who has nominated a 160-pound “O” lineman I want to be face-to-face in the same room with other voting coaches to tell them why my player, although small, deserves the honor over other nominees.

I remember past voting meetings often turning very heated, but respectful, as coaches arduously campaigned for their players.

Another benefit to those meetings over online voting is coaches got to know and understand one another. Often a unique camaraderie developed between coaches who were fierce enemies when on opposite sides of the football field.

Online voting is possibly a wave of the future and might soon be a mandate.

But, nose-to-nose, closed-door meetings in which there is time for discussion, banter, agreement and disagreement is the tried and true method that is most fair to student athletes.

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