Saying they are tired of "excuses," members of the Delaware General Assembly told the DIAA they are willing to bypass them and implement their own changes to Delaware's high school out-of-season coaching ban.
A 2018 Senate Concurrent Resolution directed the DIAA to create regulations to allow high school coaches to work with their sport's athletes out-of-season, "with restrictions that minimize the risk of unethical activity."
Delaware's rules currently only allow a high school coach, for example in field hockey, to work with their athletes in the normal season, but not give them specialized instruction at the school or anywhere else, including clubs or travel teams, the rest of the year.
The DIAA has taken at least two prior attempts before a recent push spurred on by the commencement of the Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee's audit of the DIAA's activities over the past two to three years.
At issue is an ongoing battle between parents and athletes against the DIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.
Dr. Michael Rodriguez of the Department of Education is a non-voting member of the DIAA Board of Directors, who spoke at this week's meeting of the Sunset Committee.
"Overwhelmingly, the medical community, athletic trainers were not in agreement with that regulation. Part of our charge is to ensure equity and fair competition, and ensure the safety of our students. I understand everyone's frustration, but when that's our charge, and then we have public comment that's indicating the concern for our student athlete's safety and possible equity concerns that are going to be opened up as a result of opening up the reg too much, it puts us in a unique position where we have to go against our mission, in order to hit that target of the concurrent resolution."
Rep. Lyndon Yearick (R-Camden/Woodside) echoed the comments of many coaches who have said they should have earned the DIAA's trust.
"I really believe that there should be more opportunity for our middle and high school coaches to have more time and flexibility with their student-athletes. All things being said, I think they have best interest in the student-athlete in regard to usage of their bodies, arms, and legs. I'm not saying the club sport coach or the private club coach could not, but I believe our coaches, for the greater good, have the best interest in the student-athlete, and will monitor their use."
DIAA Board President Dr. Bradley Layfield told the committee he's hearing much of the same thing, but there remains a loud voice he trusts that continues to help slow the process.
"The general consensus was actually what you're hearing from constituents and have been addressed here. To the extent possible, just about all of the parties want to go forward with expanding the opportunities to coach out-of-season. It's just finding the right amount -- how much do we open it up? -- and how do we do it safely, because we don't want to just flatly ignore what's coming out from our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee."
Those concerns were voiced by SMAC member Dr. Bradley Bley at this month's DIAA Board Meeting, saying permitting extra coaching in a specific sport that would reduce multi-sport athletes and encourage specialization goes against medical research and the suggestion of the DIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.
"This is the opposite of what the medical literature shows. The medical literature shows the sooner you specialize, the higher the risk of injury and the higher the chance you're not going to play in college, or professionally for that matter. That's been studied extensively. All of the public comment we had for the last regulations were related to that. Yes, we understand other states do this, but it's not supported in the medical literature."
Even as Layfield mentioned SMAC's concerns, Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker (D-Wilmington) continued to press the DIAA saying three years is more than enough time, citing that several schools have been started and finished being built in that time frame.
"If you need us to make the code change, let us what we know what exactly you need from us to implement the changes that are now creating angst in the community. It's causing a lot of problems for you as the DIAA, the governing body for high school students. We desire to be a part, we don't want to be involved in the finger-pointing, but give us something with which we can work, so that we can help even with the messaging. Right now, we don't have much with what we can work to say this is what the DIAA is doing to make sure these changes, brought forth by the community, will actually take place."
No member of the Sunset Committee acknowledged the SMAC Committee's concerns, with Walker pressing that they can handle passing the coaching changes, if DIAA can't.
"I believe what we can do is do the work, because what the community is hearing when we have these hearings are excuses, and that's never going to be acceptable to any of our constituents up and down the state."
The DIAA Rules and Regulation Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, March 30 at 9 a.m., with the monthly Board of Directors meeting scheduled for Thursday, April 8.
The Sunset Committee is then expected to schedule another oversight meeting, with the possibility they could take over the charge to get out-of-season coaching passed if they don't like the DIAA's progress report.