CornerKICKS: Prominent lawyer questions whether no-play rule is constitutional and discriminates under “equal athletic opportunities”

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Joe Trost, columnist for #PrepSportsReport

“Keep up the good fight.”

“Why are you fighting this battle?”

“I agree with you, it’s different at different schools.”

“My bench kids will never want to play on Sundays.”

“Love that someone is finally realizing it’s about the kids and not about the selfish adults. They only care about their season.”

“This dialogue definitely needs to happen.”

Since writing the first column on Sunday about high school boys soccer players being benched from playing soccer in any other organized game or league on Sundays to then pointing out in the second column on Monday how some high school soccer coaches collect checks on Sundays for coaching club, I feel like my phone hasn’t stopped buzzing in the office today.

From calls, emails and texts, there’s no doubt this topic has the soccer community at least thinking. Parents, officials, coaches, school leaders, players, college coaches and even some soccer people I haven’t heard from in over a decade have reached out.

“To say that a coach should be benched from coaching club, where it’s a job, is ridiculous.”

“Some people actually play with their families in weekend leagues and not being able to do that while a high school coach can collect a paycheck from a club is not really fair.”

Those are just two of the reactions on social media, which has resulted in about 70 percent of people – according to a poll on @PrepSportsRep Twitter – in favor of the Illinois High School Association membership allowing student athletes to play in a soccer game or league on Sundays during the season.

Remember, what I’m pushing for and many others are beginning to now – like a conference room full of athletic directors today – is giving students the option to play on Sundays. That doesn’t mean a student athlete has to or will want to. But the option is there if they’d like to one or two Sundays.

Maybe the top five percent of boys soccer players and their families want Sundays to be a rest day, while the 1,000s of boys soccer players – from the freshmen to varsity levels – that sat on the bench all week – and most of the year – may want to actually play a game they love with family and friends on Sundays.

Why would any educator want to deny a child the opportunity to do something that is physically and mentally healthy, have students outside engaging with others and not on an electronic device?

Right now, that penalty-free option is not there if a high school boys soccer player wants to play on Sundays. But hey, if a player and his family want to risk being suspended or kicked off the high school team for playing on Sundays, they can do that and many have for decades.

Year after year, coaches throughout Illinois turn their heads the other way because they don’t agree with the rule. Others, however, enforce the rule, which creates frustration with students and parents who get caught.

Think about this again: A child is suspended or kicked off a high school team because they played a game they love with their family and friends on a Sunday when school is not in session and the high school team didn’t have a game or practice scheduled.

Seriously?

As one prominent lawyer, who has won landmark cases against school districts and school associations over the years, said to me again today – and you’ll hear more from him later this week – this may very well be unconstitutional for a public school when not in session and with no scheduled practice or game to penalize a student for playing a sport in public that isn’t against the law. From a discrimination standpoint, students have the right to receive “equal athletic opportunities.”

Always remember: Just because something has been a rule for awhile, doesn’t mean that it’s fair and just.

And the worst thing any educator or leader can say is: “That’s the way it’s always been.”

The time for change has arrived.

CornerKICKS (normally) will appear on Sundays. Contact Joe Trost at joetrost@gmail.com.

Bio on columnist: Joe Trost is an award-winning writer at Star Newspapers, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune and ESPN.com. Locally, he is a three-time statewide IHSSCA Media Person of the Year; founder of the PepsiCo Showdown, the largest high school sports series in the U.S.; and board member for Buddy’s HELPERS, which engages and educates student athletes about Making A Difference On AND Off The Field.

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