Archive for Thursday, August 10, 2006

Opinion: BLHS better than ranking

August 10, 2006

Last week I had one of those moments that tested my objectivity. I'm not supposed to actively cheer for the teams I cover, including Basehor-Linwood High School. That's a principle that's pretty hard to stick to once you get to know these kids and coaches and see how much work they put in. You tend to get defensive about them.

So when I saw what was going on the front of this week's sports section, it got me a little worked up. Directly to the right of this column there's an article ranking the athletic departments of all 10 Kaw Valley League schools. BLHS ranks seventh ahead of just two 4A schools. The article also notes that BLHS dropped from sixth in 2004-2005 to seventh behind Piper in 2005-2006.

These rankings are based solely on league standings in 13 different sports and it would be easy to say that you can't argue with the numbers. But I can't help it, I just don't believe that this is an accurate picture of athletics at BLHS. Although the Bobcats didn't win any league titles, they weren't in the cellar in any sports except the boys cross country league meet. In fact, in most sports they were out of the bottom three altogether. The girls cross country squad was the school's most competitive, taking third at league.

Most of the BLHS teams at least finished in the middle of the pack, and these rankings didn't take into account was their potential for growth. A lot of the other KVL teams were peaking last year, while BLHS is loaded up with young talent. That youth may have hurt in the standings last year, but could come to fruition this year.

The girls cross country team should again be at the top of the league, with Megan Tush, Amanda Vitt, Caren Chellgren and Emily Lackner all coming back. The boys soccer team has all-state forward Austin Knipp leading a host of talented returning starters and should easily have its best season ever. The volleyball team is coming off an inspired playoff run and returns every varsity player. Both basketball teams return almost everyone and are also primed for breakout years. The softball team, one of the most solid programs in recent years, is still stocked with talent.

This year's rankings didn't take into account girls soccer, which was one of last year's biggest success stories for BLHS. Next year's standings will include the sport and that should give BLHS a huge boost.

Mark my words, next year's rankings will be different. But that still doesn't mean that 2005-2006 should be viewed as a disappointment. There's other things BLHS can hang its hat on besides standings. Since I've been around BLHS has hired a lot of coaches, and I've always been impressed. The administrators have a knack for picking out candidates who aren't just good coaches but are also good people.

These coaches have made sure that Basehor athletes are well-behaved. There's very little pouting, trash-talking or dirty play amongst the Bobcats, which is quite refreshing compared to what you see from some of the other KVL teams.

Sportsmanship and good coaching are the only things one can really fairly judge a high school athletic department on. Judging them solely on where their teams fall in league standings puts far too much emphasis on talent and size, two things that few high schools actually have control over. Unfortunately, the things the BLHS athletics department excel at are much harder to quantify. They don't fit nicely in neat little charts, which means that too often they go unrecognized.

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