By Ken Cohen
When I first read the story that appeared in Tuesday’s Democrat about Roscoe only fielding junior varsity teams in baseball and softball, I immediately wondered where the juniors and seniors would play. After all, I thought that junior varsity sports were open to freshman and sophomores only. A couple of friends I talked to were under the same impression.
I called Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Executive Director Jim Osborne to get some clarification. Osborne said that the New York State Public High School Athletic Association only officially recognizes modified and high school sports any levels in between, such as freshman or junior varsity, are up to individual leagues and schools to administer and regulate. That being the case, Osborne said the general agreement OCIAA schools have on the junior varsity level is that any school planning to play a junior or senior must notify the opposing team of its intentions. If the opposing team objects, the junior or senior cannot play. (Incidentally, the same arrangement holds true on the modified level for playing a ninth-grader).
Osborne also said it’s inherently understood that if a school is seeking permission to play a junior or senior in a junior varsity game, the school believes that junior or senior is not able to compete at the varsity level.
Osborne added that coaches and schools are supposed to exercise constraint when playing juniors or seniors in junior varsity games. “You really wouldn’t want a senior pitcher going against freshman batters on the junior varsity level. That would not be in the best interest of either school,” he said.
While I understand the OCIAA’s guidelines for allowing juniors and seniors to play junior varsity sports, I have reservations. There seems to be too much left up to an athletic director’s or coach’s discretion. They could forget to tell an opposing school about a junior or senior player or they could let a senior pitch saying they didn’t think he or she was varsity caliber.
The Roscoe situation is more troublesome to me. In the same story that reported his school would only offer junior varsity baseball and softball, Roscoe Athletic Director Fred Ahart added that “no Roscoe athletes will be playing for teams at other schools this spring. We have done that in the past, but we want them to play for our JV teams.”
For almost every student-athlete at Roscoe this is not a problem. Except for Brad Dreher. As a Roscoe freshman last season, he was invited and permitted to play on Livingston Manor’s varsity baseball team because Roscoe didn’t have enough players to field its own varsity team nor did it have a junior varsity program.
Dreher played in several games and was part of Manor’s state championship team. He established himself as someone capable of competing at the varsity level. He has also played varsity football and basketball.
This spring, because Roscoe is not allowing any of its students to play for Livingston Manor or any other school only its junior varsity teams Dreher will be playing junior varsity ball.
Not the ideal situation for this young man. Like academics, we hope our schools are advancing students and inspiring them to higher levels. Dreher seems to have been “left back” through no fault of his own.
“I would definitely prefer to be playing varsity ball somewhere this year,” said a diplomatic Dreher. “But I understand sports come as a privilege; that academics comes first. At least I’ll be playing baseball.”
Dreher was obviously choosing his words carefully, opting not to get caught up in the politics keeping him from playing varsity baseball for Manor this year. He is more grounded and accepting than me I think he deserves better from his scholastic experience.
Ken Cohen is an editorial advisor to the Democrat. He brings 30 years of publishing experience, many covering sports and working for sports companies. His “Further Review” column will appear every Friday.