Chop wood, Carry water: Kevin Keeton 7/31

Kevin Keeton

By Kevin Keeton GKCFCA and MFCA Board member
Posted: July 31, 2017 - 8:31 PM

Fall sports start today in Missouri and are two weeks away in the state of Kansas. Staff meetings, weight lifting sessions, 7-on-7 leagues, team camps, and any other activities that have become a part of our current 20 Summer “Contact” Days on the east side of state line have all come and gone. Plans have been made and cussed and discussed. On everything from whiteboards to cocktail napkins, depth charts have been scribbled, erased, and re-scribbled again. It’s that time of year for us high school football coaches.

Unfortunately, an increasingly ugly phenomenon has slowly become part of the off-season regime for more and more programs. There’s no good name for it, and there’s no easy way to bring it up. As coaches, we hear about it in whispers and in disgruntled shouts. We have heard it referenced by several names – kid chasing, talent acquisition, and recruiting. The Missouri State High School Activities Association has a name for it as well – they call it Undue Influence.

I’m going to admit my data and evidence for that statement is purely anecdotal. I don’t have the raw numbers from our state association. I have nothing quantitative beyond my own experiences in coaching. But I listen to you talk. I listen to the anger in your voices. I listen to the subtleties of defending its violation from some as well – other sports or schools have been being it for years, it’s trickle down from college recruiting, it’s parents, or (my absolute favorite) it’s what is best for the kid.

If you haven’t taken the time to read your state association’s handbook regarding the matter of high school recruiting, I strongly encourage you to do so. For us in Missouri, it’s MSHSAA By-Law 2.6. I recently reread it, honestly expecting it to be full of gray areas and hyperbole. It’s not. It’s clear – crystal clear – regarding the types of behaviors that should not be tolerated.

Coaches too good-natured to say anything have been tolerating it for years, we know that. But that tolerance has resulted is a new generation of coaches, good men in my opinion, who think that recruiting students outside their high school’s attendance area is just part of the business now. That makes me sad for those coaches who will be tomorrow’s pillars – for those who will steer our game for many seasons to come. I am hopeful that this article spurns increased dialogue, not just increased complaining. I am hopeful that coaches of goodwill will come together with honest and pure intent and work for solutions for the future of our game.

Football holds a very important and unique place in the realm of all high school sports. We don’t have a club scene equivalent. We are the great equalizer. Kids that want to have a great experience with their high school football team still can – regardless of money or where they come from. Kids that are good enough still get the opportunity for a college education thru their high school programs.

We are different. And the truth is we have to be better than this. We as coaches have to work for a future where high school football still holds that same special opportunity for all kids – the opportunity to be a part of something great. A greatness rooted in representing your school, in developing life changing skills, and in building relationships that last.

Kevin Keeton is former head coach at Belton and Oak Park. He is a member of the board of the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association and the Missouri Football Coaches Association.