November 22, 2013

Offseason coaching push sparks probe, controversy in Scarborough

The superintendent is investigating a possible conflict of interest after players are urged to attend a private facility where their baseball coach teaches.

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

and Mark Emmert memmert@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Training at centers like the Edge Academy in Portland has become a popular way for serious high school athletes to hone their skills year-round and get individual instruction.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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PDF: E-mail to players about baseball training

Two Scarborough parents who signed up their son for the training at the Edge Academy admitted to having mixed feelings. They asked that their names not be used, for fear of a backlash against them or their son.

“We’re thinking at least (Jones) will see him, so maybe that will give him some advantage,” the father said. “We’ve seen that in the past, where the coach sees somebody, and then he’s more likely to pick him for his team.”

The player’s mother said she wishes that Jones could work with her son directly at the academy, but is sensitive to the concerns raised in the letter from parents.

“If you didn’t have a lot of money in this town and your kid wants to be on the team? Good luck,” she said. “I just want my kid to be on the team, and I want him to start.”

RESTRICTIONS IN OTHER STATES

There are no conflict-of-interest rules at the state level for such a situation, said Dick Durost, executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association. He said the association has been contacted by school officials in Scarborough and is “aware of the concern.”

“They are presently conducting an investigation regarding the concern. Accordingly, we will not comment at this time and will give the school the opportunity to address the concern,” Durost wrote in an email.

Welsh, the booster club official, did not return email and phone messages, nor did Mike Coutts, an owner of the Edge Academy and the previous baseball coach at Scarborough High.

Rules for coaches who work in private centers where students train vary from state to state.

In Kansas, for instance, public school coaches are not allowed to attend camps or clinics with their own athletes. In Massachusetts, coaches who offer out-of-season instruction cannot have more than 50 percent of the players come from their in-school teams.

Minnesota’s rules say that a coach may not influence or direct a student who plays on his or her high school team to participate in off-season camps, clinics or leagues as a condition for team membership.

In New Hampshire, coaches in baseball, football, soccer, softball and volleyball cannot instruct students in grades 7-12 in their school attendance zones outside of school.

Entwistle, Scarborough’s superintendent, said he did not know there was a potential issue regarding student participation in private clinics until he received the letter. He said many student-athletes use indoor facilities, particularly in the off-season.

“There are those private ventures out there and they do charge money and market their services. We’re not telling kids to do that,” Entwistle said. “But there are many parents and many athletes that stay conditioned all through the year for (a) sport.”

Entwistle said he passed the letter along to the school’s athletic director, who had not received it, and the principal. “They will take any appropriate action if any is warranted,” Entwistle said.

Principal David Creech was out of town and not available on Thursday, and Athletic Director Mike LeGage did not return calls for comment.

OFFSEASON WORKOUTS ENCOURAGED

Off-season workouts are a tricky area for coaches, especially those who also work part time as instructors in their sports. Several coaches at other high schools in Greater Portland are listed on the Edge Academy’s website as staff members.

Mike Owens, baseball coach at South Portland High School, offers lessons at the Maine Hits facility in Scarborough and must avoid contact with any of his players who come in for training in the winter.

He said Maine’s rules about off-season coaching are more stringent than those in Colorado, where he worked previously.

“You encourage the kids to just make sure they stay active, take that chance to get stronger. If I could set up a program, I would,” Owens said. “You want your kids to do their best and get in there and work out. ... Knowing Ryan, I know there was no malicious intent. He just wants his kids to get better.”

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com

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