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Clubs scramble to replace idle prep coaches

By Greg Stiles It's hands-off time for soccer and volleyball coaches.

Oregon prep coaches are now barred from working with their teams duringthe off-season until after Memorial Day. The Oregon School Activities Associationrule went into effect this fall. It limits coaches from working with morethan two players at a time, but the implications are broader.

The OSAA wanted to prevent coaches from pressuring players into playingclub ball. Soccer, volleyball and basketball -- at the club level -- tendto be sports without an end.

It was the pressure to play club volleyball by coaches in Gresham andeast Portland that led to the OSAA rule.

They're claiming it will level the playing field, North Medfordvolleyball coach Ron Beick says.

In reality, it's a rule that falls under the law of unintended consequences.

In Eugene and Portland where there are enough non-high school affiliatedcoaches, they're not going to skip a beat, Beick says. The clubs(in the Willamette Valley) are bigger than last year. What going to do istake Bend, us and Coos Bay -- where there isn't the coaching depth and separatethem from the (metropolitan areas). Who's going to coach? The parents?

One of the things Beick and South Medford coach Jim Harrah had in mindwhen they were hired four years ago was to build a club program that couldput the Rogue Valley on even footing with the Mount Hood Conference schoolsthat have reeled off 12 straight state championships.

There were no seniors on North's fifth-place team. The potential to fine-tunefor next year was enormous. But the new rule has crumpled that idea likebroom handle in bicycle spokes.

As a result, the Rogue Valley Volleyball Club's primary emphasis thiswinter will be on junior high-aged players.

In trying to follow the spirit of the rule, Beick has removed himselffrom working with any high school players until May 26. Parents and playerswill chart the course until then.

Over in Ashland, former Grizzlies coach and Southern Oregon Universitycoach Paul Elliott is handling club duties.

But finding experienced mentors isn't easy, just ask soccer coaches atEagle Point, Hidden Valley, North Valley or Rogue River. Those four schoolsparticipated in recreational level spring league with the Grants Pass SoccerClub.

Tim Sweeney just concluded his second year coaching the Eagle Point girls.He has roughly 35 players involved in the spring. He says there aren't alot of soccer coaches with varsity-level backgrounds in his community. Further,it's not like he can simply load his team up in vans and ship them to Medford'sRogue Valley Soccer Club for winter or spring competition.

The RVSC has open tryouts for its classic winter teams and Grant Bryantof the the RVSC says prep coaches wanting to enter entire teams in the springhave been directed to Grants Pass.

That limits options for Sweeney and coaches of District 6 (Class 3A-2A-1A)schools.

My kids would be willing to do that, Sweeney says. ButI have 12 freshmen and there is no way we could get them all to practice(in Medford). We need an Eagle Point-based team.

Sweeney adds that most of the Eagle Point players are three-sport athletes.So a spring schedule -- playing Sunday afternoons -- worked well in thepast.

We're just trying to provide a spot for kids to play, Sweeneysays. There's a feeling that we've been painted into a corner. Ifwe try to go to summer, then we're conflicting with softball and basketball.

Says Tom Matti, the Grants Pass Optometrist who coaches North Valley:What this means is that kids in rural areas -- specifically District6 -- won't play together in the off-season. If they do, it will be at amuch lower level than kids in the cities will be playing.

Bryant says the OSAA rule has altered the face of its classic coachingstaff. Instead of varsity coaches taking winter teams, the club has filledwith coaches have coached older age groups.

TWO AND OUT -- Quick now, when was the last time the SOC was ousted fromthe state playoffs in two weeks? The SOC produced at least one state finalistin 10 of the previous 12 seasons. So it may come as a surprise that in 1994all four SOC teams were

eliminated in the first two weeks. That year Ashland, Roseburg and SouthMedford fell in openers and conference champion Grants Pass lost in thesecond round.

ASHLAND WINS -- The Ashland Grizzlies were the recipient of the JackClark Sportsmanship Award presented annually by the Rogue Valley FootballOfficials Association.

Grants Pass was the 1996 winner and Glendale was the 1995 recipient.Clark was a longtime football official from Josephine County.

TROPHY TWO -- Jani Hale, the erstwhile cheerleading adviser at SouthMedford, called the sports department Monday morning to report that Southhad a won a state cheerleading title in 1987.

The OSAA oversees interscholastic activities from cheerleading to musicand speech as well as sports.

FIRST NOT SECOND -- North Medford junior Ali Mostue earned first-teamClass 4A volleyball all-tournament honors, not second as reported here lastweek.

Also, it was two years ago that Crater played PIL champion Benson inthe first round of the Class 4A girls tournament.

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