The 23rd annual AHSAA summer conference is upon us this week as administrators, coaches and players converge in Montgomery for practices, games and other events across nine different sports. Eight of those sports focus on upcoming seniors, giving them an extra opportunity for exposure to college coaches and recruiters.
During the week, the rest of the sports are not allowed to hold competitions during their summer workouts which means the focus of high school sports in Alabama is on what is going on only in Montgomery. And although our focus is there, the same issue seems to arrive every year.
While the other events provide games as another opportunity on a big stage, the football game struggles to draw the big-name players or colleges even a regular-season matchup can provide. The football game is the only sport of the week which is for graduates and because it is held so late in the summer, many players either cannot make it to the game or are already out of football shape by the time this week arrives.
Both the North and South teams announced 37-man squads in February but because there were so many athletes dropping out of the event, both teams were still finalizing their rosters on Monday. South head coach and current Dadeville coach Richard White said he had 15 players drop out from the original roster, including two players in the week leading up to the game.
Now, this is not to blame the players for not participating in the game but rather the scheduling which forces them into deciding not to play. It is not the case for all players but many of the players people want to see in an all-star football game have already reported to their college teams in the summer. If they have not reported to campus, there’s a good chance they just do not want to play in a game where they can risk an injury prior to starting a collegiate career.
When those players start dropping out, you have to call upon players who may not be playing at the next level and have already stopped doing football workouts. They may be in shape compared to most of us but that still isn’t being in football shape, which can be dangerous for young athletes.
There may not be a simple solution to this problem. Some people say the game should be for upcoming seniors like the rest of the all-star games while some people think the game should just be dropped from all-star week entirely.
The biggest issue may be no one thinks of this game as the high school football all-star game in Alabama. That title really belongs to the Alabama-Mississippi Classic which is played in December annually and often truly features the top talent in the state.
Without know the logistics of how to fix this problem, the key is to have it much earlier in the year and not worry about it coinciding with the summer conference every year. The North-South game should continue to be played but it should be a little bit closer to the actual football season, whether before or after the Alabama-Mississippi game.
Now, this game still provides a lot of opportunities for high school athletes in the state and there is no reason we need to take that away. But allowing these opportunities to thrive may take a little tweak here and there.