Politicizing All-League Honors Threatens Age Old Tradition

John L. Braese

Sports writers are just that-we write what occurs. We don’t judge the outcomes of a game or second guess the actions of a coach or the play called that ended the game. There are times, however, when even a casual follower of high school sports recognizes a problem.

The selection of a student athlete to an all-league honor will not change a person’s life. At the end of the season, coaches gather, submit names from their own team they believe should be considered and wait for the voting from their peers.

All-league is based on a simple premise-a student athlete’s athletic ability sets them apart from others in the league. All-league is not a citizenship award. Or a grade point average test. Or an award for “best teammate”. All-league honors that student athlete who scores the most points, has the most kills or blocks, carries the most yards, was a terror on defense, etc.

After personally seeing every boys basketball team in the Eastern Oregon League this season, the recent release of the Eastern Oregon League all-league team is egregious. While fully agreeing with the coaches voting for both player of the year and coach of the year, the rest of the listing shows the pettiness and immaturity of this league’s coaches.

In the past 20 years, we have seen countless all-league selections. We have agreed with honoring that lone senior after almost making the list the previous two years. We have explained to parents a player from every team in the league is typically chosen even if the team was winless. We have congratulated a student athlete after seeing their face light up after the listing was released.

On this year’s list, the first and second place teams in the league are represented by two players on the first team. The remaining five players named to first team hold a combined team record of 27-48 and a league record of 13-17.

Fans and parents are expected to be biased-that is why they are called fans and parents. It is entirely correct to believe your team is the best in the league and your player excels above all others (even after the recent season, I still believe in the Chicago Bears).

When league coaches meet after the season, their duty is to advocate and fight for their players to placement on all-league. However, as coaches are unable to vote for their own players, it is then time to pull up the adult pants and cast a vote for the student athlete that you as a coach dreaded seeing on the schedule. If, like myself, you look at pure stats over this past basketball season, the voting this year went out the door.

I have always held to the idea of not just complaining about a problem but coming up with a solution. That being said, if coaches are to continue to act like children and vote accordingly, the proposal is made the all-league voting next season be made by children. A group of second-graders representing all the schools in the Eastern Oregon League will be brought into a room, shown highlight reels of players and then vote. Real children will vote according to athletic ability and student athletes that excel in a sport, not on past hard feelings from a game played months ago.

Real coaches are adults and as leaders of youth, act accordingly.