Prep problems: concussions, recruiting, specialization

| August 3, 2011
Jerry Wyman is director of athletics for Jefferson County Public Schools.

Jerry Wyman is director of athletics for Jefferson County Public Schools.

As Director of Athletics for Jefferson County Public Schools, Jerry Wyman often finds himself at the center of major decisions affecting high school athletics in the Louisville-area.

Wyman, a 1984 Pleasure Ridge Park graduate, oversees approximately 1200 coaches and more than 6800 athletes in the high school program. In addition, he serves as a liaison between area athletic directors (both public and private) and the KHSAA.

He began his career in athletics administration at Doss High, serving as AD from 1996-01. After being promoted to Assistant Principal in 2001, he spent four years in that role before landing his current position in 2005.

With fall team practices well underway, Wyman sat down in his office off Newburg Road to answer questions about the state of high school sports in Jefferson County.

What is the most pressing issue in JCPS athletics at the moment?
Our big initiative right now is raising awareness of concussions. Through a partnership with Norton (Healthcare) we’ve initiated a concussion management program. We had neurologists come out and speak to our athletic directors last month and we’re going to hang posters in every locker room and weight room explaining what a concussion is and how to identify the symptoms.
The “shake it off” thing is over. You don’t shake it off and go back in the ballgame.

We want parents and teachers to be looking at kids and seeing if they notice anything different. We also want the kids who see something’s not quite right to realize it could be a serious situation and let the coach or trainer know.

How do you feel about the trend toward specialization in high school sports wherein players are committing at an early age to play one sport year-round?
I think it’s a terrible thing.

It’s proven that different sports develop different muscle groups and kids who continue to do the same thing over and over again don’t get that development. Not only that, they’re more prone to injuries.

To be honest with you, I don’t like Fall Ball (off-season baseball) and I don’t like spring football. I think it’s very detrimental to what we are trying to do, which is develop the whole kid.

Is the illegal recruitment of middle school athletes a major issue? If yes, how do you deal with allegations?
It’s most definitely an issue and I wish there was a way we could guarantee better compliance (with KHSAA regulations).

The accusations and allegations of recruiting are probably my biggest heartburn. I get 15-20 allegations a year and most of them are never substantiated.  If it can’t be substantiated through pictures or through email or through a parent coming forward, then it’s very tough to prove.

To me it’s a bad situation. What do you do when a parent approaches you and wants to talk about the basketball program or football program at your school? You’re not allowed to talk to them about it.

So what you’re asking a coach to do is stay on even ground with other coaches by going out and watching younger players – which I wish they would restrict – and then to turn around and be rude to a parent if they approach them. I don’t think that’s what’s happening. I think they are talking to the parents when they’re not supposed to.

What are your thoughts on drug testing high school athletes? Could you see Kentucky enacting a statewide mandate similar to those in New Jersey, Texas and Illinois?
It really hasn’t been something that we’ve talked at length about in our district. I personally would like to see it done at the state level. If they wanted to institute some random testing, I would support it.

If you could snap your fingers and make one immediate change in the Louisville-area high school sports landscape, what would it be?
I would love for everybody who lives in the community, whether they have a child or not, to fall back in love with high school sports and fill our gyms and stadiums up again.

How do you spend your free time?
I love to play golf (12-handicap) and travel any time I can. I’m an avid U of L fan with season tickets for football.

Contact columnist Chris Cahill at ccahill@voice-tribune.com.

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Category: High School Sports Report

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Chris Cahill

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  1. Bryan Miles says:

    Another great column! I thought Chris chose some very good questions to ask a man in Mr.Wyman’s position. Chris, I always enjoy these columns!! keep up the good work bro!