Bradwell Institute football coach Jim Walsh Jr. isn’t the only one who thinks feeder systems will level the playing field for high school sports teams.
I’ve heard it from prep coaches in a number of sports at a number of schools over the years.
Almost invariably, they’ll point to powerhouses in a particular sport and note that those programs have feeder systems.
Now, for those who don’t know what I’m scribbling on about, a feeder system is merely a method by which kids who are going to attend a certain high school and play a certain sport get early exposure to how the sport is played at that high school.
Usually, that means the middle school coach is part of the high school staff. In some cases, it means rec league coaches join in and start youngsters out even earlier doing things the high school way.
That was the way it was in Effingham County in the 1980s when Bob Griffith turned the perennial doormat Rebels into a state football powerhouse. He maintained a run that lasted into the mid-1990s, before the opening of South Effingham split the county’s talent pool in half and set up a bitter rivalry that lasts to this day.
But even for those programs where the rec league isn’t on board, at the very least, there’s a middle school feeder system at the heart of the very best programs in Georgia.
That’s certainly the way it is in Camden County, where kids get three years to learn Jeff Herron’s system before they step foot inside a high school locker room.
And I’d be willing to bet my bottom dollar that Charlton County, which outlasted BI, 22-14, on Friday, has a feeder system as well. No program wins as many state titles as the Indians have (they have five) without doing what successful programs around the state and other states do — which is get the kids in the swing of things early.
It shouldn’t be rocket science, but somehow it continues to elude those in Liberty County who can make it happen.
Part of the issue may be that we too often like to think that because feeder systems are something created by coaches whose careers depend on wins and losses, they must be bad for kids. Others may believe middle school programs should run independently and away from the pressures of high school sports so the players can have fun, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but how many middle school stars do you know who have gone on straight to
And why is it automatically assumed that a kid who has to learn a high school offense at the middle school level is not going to have fun?
The truth is, without the feeder system, young athletes are the ones who are really getting cheated — because sooner or later they’ll face programs built on feeder systems, and guess who usually wins?
There are alternatives to creating a feeder system. You can do nothing and continue to blame coaches when your team loses. Or you can ask the Georgia High School Association to outlaw feeder systems at all schools, from Valdosta to Statesboro to Camden County and beyond. Good luck with that.
Finally, we could just stop keeping score — and I’m not kidding. It works well in T-ball, the last level of sports where our priorities are still at least halfway sane.
But if we’re going to judge high school programs and those who run them on wins and losses, then it’s only fair to make sure that we’re judging them all by the same standard.
Jeff Whitten writes about sports for the Coastal Courier.