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House Dem lawmakers introduce bill to protect health and safety of student athletes

Say bill will prohibit sports specialization requirements at Ohio high schools
December 23, 2019
Joseph A. Miller III News

State Reps. Joe Miller (D-Amherst) and Adam Miller (D-Columbus) today introduced legislation that would prohibit high school athletics coaches from requiring student athletes to participate solely in their sport to the exclusion of all other sports and extracurricular activities. 

“Sports specialization prioritizes short-term results over the long-term success of our student athletes,” said Rep. Joe Miller. “Young people need the space to discover new interests and step outside of their comfort zone. When it comes time to take the next step in their educational, athletic, or professional career, that diverse range of experiences will unlock new opportunities and empower them to meet new challenges.”

High school sports continue to become more and more like what college sports were decades ago. More competition, bigger stadiums, more pressure on the athlete, and even games on television. This in turn has led some high school coaches to change traditional methods in order to put their teams in the best competitive standing. One of these new practices is called specialization. That is, an athlete focuses on one sport exclusively year round as a prerequisite to participation. 

“Our policies should always put the best interest of the student first – not the coach,” said Rep. Adam Miller. “Extracurricular programs like sports are to help develop the whole student, to give them a chance to experience different challenges in different environments. If a student athlete can’t make a team on her or his merit, that is one thing, but a blanket policy prohibiting student athletes from participating in more than one extracurricular program – even in a different season - is a disservice to the student athlete.”

Specialization can also keep students from participating in other, non-athletic co-curricular clubs and activities.

Numerous studies have shown that sports specialization leads to more injuries and keeps student athletes from experiencing different teams, clubs, and activities, hindering their ability to tap into the full high school education experience. The bill would not mandate a coach to keep a student athlete who cannot make the team on his or her ability, it simply prohibits coaches from having a blanket policy of one sport to the exclusivity of all other activities.

After introduction, the bill awaits a number and assignment to a House committee, where it will be eligible for public hearings.