Attitudes reflect leadership.
Iola USD 257 is on the brink of voting to leave the Southeast Kansas League after 65 years to join the Pioneer League. If the board of education votes to do so on Monday, the Iola High and Iola Middle School athletics will make the jump in 2012-2013.
It’s not the first time the “we can’t compete in the SEK so we need to switch leagues” movement has come up in the past 26 years. It always seems to rear its head when the football team or boys’ basketball team are struggling.
Sorry guys, that is the perception from the outside. During some of the lean years — there haven’t been as many — for girls’ athletics, the outcry to switch leagues hasn’t been there.
Going 0-9 on the football field this season put the spotlight on a program not doing well. After going 7-2 and making it to the Class 4A playoffs in head coach Rick Horton’s second year at Iola, the Mustangs have gone 3-15. The team was 3-6 in his first season at the helm.
In the 10 years before, Iola was 17-73. There is no winning tradition in IHS football history with only 16 winning seasons since 1946.
There was no mention in the report of the league talk at the board meeting of how the Fillies’ volleyball team was doing. It struggled for the third year in a row in SEK and overall play.
My stance on changing leagues has always been the same. Iola is a Class 4A school and probably will remain there, stuck in the lower half of the list of 64 schools designated to compete in that classification. The SEK has been a 4A league, except for Pittsburg, for quite some time.
To be competitive in football, and not just get to the playoffs, the Mustangs have to be able to beat larger 4A teams to advance. In going to the Pioneer League, it appears Iola wants to be the big fish in the small pond. But beware of those smaller fish; they have a lot of fight.
Anderson County, a 4A school, Wellsville and Central Heights, both 3A schools, made the football playoffs out of the Pioneer League. Wellsville, a 3A team, went undefeated in the league. Burlington, which has been asked to join the league also, made the 3A playoffs.
We couldn’t have done much in the Pioneer League this year. Maybe a win over 1-8 Jayhawk-Linn of Mound City, which is a 2A school headed back to the Three Rivers League.
“No excuses.” “We coached the same way this season as we did when we went 7-2 and made the playoffs.” These are things told to the Register by Mustang head coach Rick Horton.
The problem was we did not have the same players as we did two years ago. High school, or for that matter middle school, sports have to adapt to the personnel.
College and professional sports have the luxury of choosing the athletes who fit certain systems. Not so in high schools, especially in the declining enrollment mode we’ve seen in Iola and other area schools.
Volleyball coaches talk of switching from a 6-2 offense, which uses two setters on the floor at the same time, to a 5-1 (one setter) because it just wasn’t working. Not much was working for the Mustangs on the football field this year.
Baseball and softball coaches know if they have teams that can hit with power and get, not just singles, but extra-base hits, or if they will have to rely on small ball — hit-and-runs, bunts, base running. They know because they evaluate their athletes.
Doing the work in the off-season and during the season — hitting the weight room is not just responsibility of athletes themselves. Coaches need to be there to encourage, push athletes to reach goals.
Don’t make excuses for them. Demand discipline and dedication of them and of the program.
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