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Racism accusations seem unfounded

Posted: June 10, 2012 - 12:13am

An e-mail came across my desk recently that accused the Columbia County school system of being racist and discriminatory in the way students are selected for summer athletic programs, and claiming not all middle school students are informed of “secret” high school practices.

My first reaction was to dismiss this out of hand, but it would be naive to think racism and discrimination have been eradicated from our society. At the same time, it’s a bit unfair to paint the entire county with the same brush.

I don’t have a child in the school system. And while I cover the different high schools in the county, I am not there for team meetings, or practices, or anything that happens behind closed doors. What I have observed is a dedicated group of coaches and administrators who appear to have the best interests of their student-athletes at heart.

But let’s not be mistaken. At the high school level, coaches want to win, and there is a certain amount of pressure on them to win. To do that, they desire to have the best talent out on the field and/or court that they can possibly get.

This is what I think the e-mail is really about: Someone’s child wasn’t picked for a team.

I tried to communicate with the sender of the e-mail to ask for specifics, but I did not get a reply..

Harlem High School softball coach Mike Leverett sounded confused by the question when asked about secret middle school practices. To me, that just about said it all.

“I do work with the middle school kids during the summer. I do a little summer program for the Harlem Middle School area,” Leverett said, adding that if middle school athletes want to play he puts them in a league in Thomson.

“We’ve got a small area, so you don’t get as many girls as you want to,” he said.

John Kucela, the Lakeside boys basketball coach, has just the opposite problem during the summer.

Once the school year ends, Kucela says they have summer workouts, which are open to rising freshman through seniors. The ninth-graders come from Stallings and Lakeside middle schools. He says that those who played on the middle school teams are informed about the practices, but still he gets players who did not compete for their middle schools.

“We had 50 kids come out this year,” Kucela said. “This summer we have had to reduce the numbers. You can’t play basketball with 50 kids. We told them they could come back in the fall and try out.”

He added that they would be taking three teams to Georgia College at the end of June for team camp. The third team will be comprised of freshmen.

I did not speak to all the coaches in every sport in the county’s high school system. But do I really need to?

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