Sports camps as recruiting tools for HS coaches? Hmm…

Where do we draw the line for coaches trying to build good high school sports programs, but also needing to avoid the appearance of recruiting?

And on which side of that line do sports camps fall?

This whole ongoing issue of trying to prevent high schools from recruiting grade-school kids into their sports programs is getting out of hand.

While making it difficult for families who want to change schools just to get their kids into a better sports program has always been a good idea, the latest shot across the bow by the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) seems to be, as they say, ‘much to do about nothing’.

According to a recent article in The Arizona Republic, the AIA is looking into baseball camps for elementary-age athletes – the kind conducted at the various high schools around the state – for potential recruiting violations.  A flier for a winter camp at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale apparently raised a red flag.

Following up on that, Scott Bordow just covered the issue in his Republic column.

Normally, Bordow’s columns are good reading and the part of his job that requires holding the AIA accountable for many of its more questionable decisions is appreciated by the sports community.

But when he suggests that a coach should be suspended, or possibly fired, because his camp is considered to be a recruiting tool – that’s taking things to the extreme.

Of course camps are going to have some influence on the kids attending.  They get a chance to use the facilities and often interract with the coaching staff, and probably some of the varsity players helping staff it.

An attorney for the AIA was quoted in Bordow’s column as saying the camps don’t necessarily violate AIA policy, but any violation would have to be based on whether the coaches use them to influence kids.

Speaking as a high school coach who has conducted many such camps, it would be foolish to say that they don’t give the host school some small advantage.  Frankly, it’s one of the few opportunities coaches have to present their programs to the outside.

But to suggest that the AIA needs to be concerned enough to begin checking up on potential recruiting violations at these camps is impractical.  There are hundreds of these high school camps each year.

And where, after taking on the camps, do you finally draw the line?

What about the promotions that invite basketball teams from select grade schools to come to your gym on a specific game night, with free admission, to get a look at your team?  That’s been done for years, and there was never an outcry over recruiting violations.  It’s always been thought of as just good ‘marketing’.

And, taking things a step farther in this digital age… what about team websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts?  Phoenix Christian High School has even set up its own TV network on YouTube.

Aren’t those designed, at least in part, to promote their school to others outside their own community?  So how does that fit into the recruiting guidelines?

This latest fixation on summer-camp recruiting is a slippery slope.  Do we really need to go down it?