Column: Line Drives – Decision is step in right direction

[This is my column in The Commercial Review from today.]

Before moving to Portland, I was very uninformed about the goings on within Indiana, especially the sports landscape.

I was familiar with how rich the basketball history is within the state, especially with the recent resurgence of the Hoosiers within the Big Ten.

So when I moved to the Hoosier State the end of June, I took to my personal blog on the daily to inform my friends and family back home what I was learning about the area and my new career.

I titled each post “What I learned today,” and then described the things I learned that given day.

The subjects covered a wide array of topics, not just sports.

For example, I learned one day the Boston Red Sox were the last baseball team to break the color barrier.

I wrote a post about the first time someone recognized me by seeing my name (and photo) in the newspaper.

One post was on the topic of my then-inability to take notes of every day happenings (such as column ideas, or things I needed to do that day, to which I have gotten better).

Another post focused on my first experience as an adult with a county fair.
It was intended as a daily post, but as I got busier and spent more time working on stories, the frequency of those posts has diminished.

So with a new medium, I am going to transfer the same format into what I hope will be monthly review of what I learned while in Jay County.

Let this be the inaugural, monthly “what I learned” column.

And it starts with the basis for the Sydney Willis story in this issue.

I learned that the Indiana High School Athletic Associated passed legislation to allow home-schooled students to participate in high school sports.

This takes me back to the 2012 football season.

I covered a Michigan high school football team last fall with a student, Travis Welch, who was enrolled at a technical high school that didn’t have any sports teams.

Since Welch’s school did not have an athletic program of its own, he was allowed to attend another school to participate in athletics.

Welch was an exceptionally talented running back, and along with his backfield-mate Evan Howard, led his team to its first winning season and playoff berth in school history.
The two of them were similar to the Jay County tandem of J.D. Mangas and Cade Price from a year ago. Defenses couldn’t stop them both.

His situation of attending another school just to participate in athletics was an oddity to me, but it was a story my editor at the time didn’t give me the go-ahead to pursue.
But learning of the IHSAA legislation in April that lets athletes like Willis have the chance to participate in interscholastic athletics as long as they are enrolled in one class at their local school is a feel-good story.

I wish other states would follow if they haven’t already.

Just because a child is home-schooled or attends a school that doesn’t have an athletic program, they should not be denied the opportunity to participate in high school athletics.

It deprives the home-schooled student-athletes the opportunity to get the exposure to colleges that a traditional high school student-athlete would receive.

This deprivation could, in turn, hamper the home-schooled athlete from receiving athletic scholarships without having to walk-on first.

And for someone like Willis — who is an exceptional athlete and hopes her golf can help ease the financial burden of college — the opportunity would not be there if not for the IHSAA passing the legislation during the spring.

As long as she keeps posting the scores she has been so far this season, her golf will take her places.

So kudos to the IHSAA for the ruling, because everyone deserves the same opportunity.

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