The power of athletes and parents in prep sports


Did a player transferring from East caused Jim Nahas to "quit" his job?

This morning, I read with interest Jim Nahas’ criticism of the Des Moines schools’ transfer rules as it relates to student-athletes.  Nahas tendered his resignation as East Des Moines High’s boys basketball coach.  John Naughton listed the possible reasons why student-athletes transfer to another school.

–Parents who want their kids to play in what’s perceived as a better program, or with increased playing time.

–Athletes who feel they’ll get a shot at a state tournament appearance or all-state honors if they get in a different program.

–Families who think they have the next Harrison Barnes if they get the player to a coach who can develop the kid’s college potential.

Transfers happen, in every sport and at every city school. Boys’ and girls’ basketball is one of the sports that the switches have been the most common and the most contentious. One year a kid is suited up for Team A, and the next they’re playing at a crosstown rival.

At this point, I raise a practical question, much like Naughton.  Is it the policy that is the problem, or is it the parents and the athletes who have more power in what is in the best interest of the player? The notion that Nahas resigned because the district’s transfer policies are allowing other schools to get better players is par for the course.  Ask any public or parochial school coach how it feels when one of their players moves to another school, in order to give him or herself a chance to succeed.

No longer is the conventional wisdom to accuse parochial or superior public schools for “recruiting” kids to play for their athletic teams.

It doesn’t help that Nahas was 3-40 in his two seasons at the school located in affectionally known as Lee Township.  His comments sound like sour grapes, but understandable.  It also doesn’t help him when he announces that he’s going back to WDM Dowling Catholic to assume the assistant coach’s position with the Maroons.  Dowling Catholic made it to the boys basketball state tournament this past spring.
Dowling Catholic is a traditional powerhouse in boys’ hoops.  East isn’t, and Nahas leaving doesn’t help the Scarlet program.  To me, he “bailed out” because he couldn’t keep good players due to them either being disgruntled or were tired of being in a losing culture.  It might have been a good idea to ask his counterpart, girls’ coach Sam Powell how to build the boys’ program into a respectable winner.  If Powell can turn a moribund program around, then why did Nahas feel that he couldn’t, or at least make the attempt, to do the same for the boys’ program?

The power is now in the hands of the player and student who wants to play in a winning atmosphere.  The district transfer rules across the state is not necessarily to blame.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Steve Young says:

    The problem with this specific case is that the state has no say when it comes to transferring within a school district, they only govern transfers from one district to another, or between public and private schools. The responsibility of setting transfer rules within the district rests with the district itself, and DMPS isn’t in the position to be able to say that a student can’t change schools within its boundaries. If you say that a basketball player can’t switch from East to Hoover, then you also have to say that a band student or science whiz can’t move to a school that may better fit their needs and skill levels.

    As for what needs to happen to turn things around in the East Boys BB program, the solution sounds simple enough, but is one of the hardest things to do: get a bunch of players who want to be there, a coach who wants to be there even more and who is given the time to work, and have the coach tell the players upfront that they expect nothing less than everything they have. If the younger kids in the EHS boundaries have someone to look up to who have passion for both the sport and their school, then those kids will want to grow up and be Scarlets. It might take going through another couple seasons of 1-20 or 3-18, but eventually the ship would get turned around.

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