Concerns with Baylor’s UIL regional meet

Last weekend a the Region II 6A and 3A meets held at Baylor in Waco, I found a disturbing lack of concern by some Baylor officials regarding coaching and athletes at the regional meet.

It began at the Friday morning coaches’ meeting. I noticed that there were no heat sheets available including girls field events. When I asked, I was told these would be available in the press box around noon. Since the girls triple jump began at 12:30 this could have made a big difference. We do not begin warmup 30 minutes before the start of an event. Knowing which flight my athlete(s) are assigned to makes a difference in warmup and event preparation.

Unfortunately, some kind of monster truck event at the next door McLane Stadium took precedence with parking and forced meet officials to move everything up on Saturday. Scheduling created a conflict with the girls high jump and long jump held at the same time at 9 am. I had two long jumpers competing and one of these ladies was simultaneously competing in the high jump. They had gone 19-5 and 19-3 the week before and came into the meet seeded #1 and #2 so this was a big concern for me,

I brought this up with meet director Tom Hill. While he did allow a change in long jump flights to accommodate jumper preferences, he made it clear that there would be no coaching boxes at either event. Coaches in the long jump and high jump were required to stand outside the fence and compete for space to see their athletes with parents and spectators. He said that coaches had priority but there was no official procedure to clear space for coaches to see. If it was a problem, we could “ask an official to help.

I tried to get an explanation of what that meant several times and only received a repeat of his original comment. As I understood, if our athlete was about to come down the long jump runway, we could ask a parent/spectator to allow us space to watch. If they refused we could ask an official for help. Of course, by that time the athlete would already have completed her jump!

I then asked Mr. Hill about coaches who would have to go back and forth quickly during the competition. His response was, “I hope you’re in good shape.” Seriously, Mr. Hill? That is your response to the lack of a coaching box set aside so competitors can receive adequate coaching during the regional championships?

For those coaches who do coach in the long jump, we were required to go back and forth from the takeoff area of the LJ to the end of the runway so we could talk to your athlete and share video of the preceding jump. If I was at the board (so I could see the takeoff spot which was not being marked by officials as it is in many championships meets) I would have to give up my spot to talk to my athlete and hope I would be able to get a spot when I returned.

Waco regional LJ area

Long jump competition area and unused space that could have served as a coaching box.

During the competition, my assistant coach held me a spot near the takeoff board so I could have a good view, but spectators leaning over the fence blocked my ability to video my athletes’ approaches. As you can see from the photo, there was tons of room for a coaching box on the track which would not have interfered with the relay warmups though it’s likely the competition would be ended before then anyway.

The high jump officials tried to be accommodating to the coaches and entertained the idea of a coaching box next to the pit, but changed to allowing coaches to stay in the infield grass behind the venue where it is impossible to accurately assess any neccessary approach adjustments.

(At some point officials were reported told by the meet referee that no coaches were allowed on the infield. I was at the long jump when this announcement was made so my bag holding my equipment was left on the grass in the infield where I could not retrieve it until the competition was over.)

High jump area

High jump area

Like the long jump area, the high jump venue was surrounded by huge amounts of empty space which could have been used as a coaching box. Instead coaches were placed along the fence (again having to compete with spectators for the small mount of adequate spots from which to assess critical takeoff positioning) far away from the pit itself.

Both sets of officials tried their best to work with coaches and athletes. In particular, HJ official Gary Bowdoin worked hard to allow competitors every chance to compete fairly if they were in both events.

It was frustrating to have to literally run back and forth from the fence on the west side to the long jump area on the east side while my girls competed at the same time. (If you were along the north fence and saw a coach in a red shirt huffing and puffing as he ran from side to side on Saturday morning, that was me!)

Fortunately, Mr Hill, I am in good enough shape to do this, but it never should have been required. It is obvious that there was plenty of space to provide coaching boxes. Forcing coaches to compete with spectators for space just to see their athletes compete is inexcusable. Forcing coaches to run back and forth around the track dodging spectators and your only response is “I hope you’re in good shape” is also unexcusable.

And to the marshall who told a group of stunned coaches that it’s the same way at the state meet: you need to go to the state meet because coaches are allowed in coaching boxes on the infield. One coach at the time commented that we’d never accept such a statement in the classroom from one of our students.)

I understand the incredile complexities of hosting a regional meet. I’ve seen it up close while serving as the referee for many regional meets at Sam Houston State University and have attended regional meets all across the state. (For years SHSU has been an example of how to do a meet right and how to make sure it’s all about the athletes and the competition.) It’s a job I wouldn’t want and Mr. Hill, the officials working, and the folks at Baylor do a very good job hosting the meet. However, there are always ways to improve.

Kaylor Harris and Zuliat Alli

Kaylor Harris and Zuliat Alli

So how did all this work out for us? I couldn’t be prouder of how my athletes competed. Kaylor Harris finished 3rd in the long jump – a remarkable performance in the regional finals considering she was nursing a serious hamstring injury.

Zuliat Alli went out early in the high jump. (She was so far away that she could’t hear me calling her over to the fence when she was taking her last 2 attempts after coming straight over from the long jump).

Fortunately for Zuliat, going out early in the high jump was likely a good thing as she was able to focus in the finals on the long jump where she took over the lead on her last jump to win the competition by 8 inches with a PR (wind-legal) of 19-4.

Congratulations, ZuZu, on being regional champion!

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