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One less tug of war

Three Saugus coaches commit to communicate about multi-sport athletes

Posted: August 20, 2009 10:17 p.m.
Updated: August 21, 2009 4:55 a.m.

(Left to right) Saugus head football coach Jason Bornn, holding a basketball, baseball head coach John Maggiora, with a football, and basketball head coach Derek Ballard, with a baseball bat, say they have worked together to make sure there are no battles over multi-sport athletes.

 
The tug of war between coaches at a given school over athletes is an issue that usually doesn’t slip past the conference room at a school.

But it’s there.

For years, high school coaches in the Santa Clarita Valley have had behind-the-scenes battles over athletes.

Saugus basketball coach Derek Ballard and football coach Jason Bornn said they had one last year.

But they won’t have another battle.

“We had it out,” Ballard said of talks between he and Bornn. “We had heated discussions about how kids playing football and coming late is hard for basketball. But honesty’s the key.”

Ballard, Bornn and John Maggiora, the head baseball coach, have worked together to build a better understanding of each others’ programs.

The first step to that came with a spring meeting where they sat down to schedule time for their shared players.

Now, the coaches, who are all history teachers at Saugus High, say they encourage their athletes to play other sports, but add that they want their athletes to make sure they’re not neglecting their best sport.

But is it selfish for coaches to battle over a kid in the first place?

“It’s not selfish,” Maggiora said. “You just want the player to be the best they can be, and if they’re not out there you’re not giving them the chance to be the best they can be.”

Then are coaches deciding which sport a child should play?

In a word — yes.

Maggiora and Bornn said they have told players that they will have more opportunities on their field than another field.

A good example of that was Desi Rodriguez.

Now graduated and at the Air Force Academy, Rodriguez played basketball and football for Saugus.

But he was the Foothill League’s Player of the Year as the Centurions’ starting quarterback in 2008.

He was a backup guard on the varsity basketball team.

Both his former coaches say there was no tug-of-war over Rodriguez because of his importance to the football team.

Currently, Bornn and Ballard share five players throughout their programs. Bornn and Maggiora share four and Maggiora and Ballard share one.

Maggiora said he discussed scheduling with Ballard over the use of one player during the summer.

Maggiora got the basketball schedule from Ballard, then plugged his pitcher into the rotation accordingly.

All things considered, it’s an unusual display of cooperation within an athletic program.

High school coaches in the Santa Clarita Valley have told The Signal in the past that there are other coaches who greatly discourage kids from playing two sports, even to the point where there are ramifications for a kid playing two sports.

In a recent questionnaire sent by The Signal to various coaches in the valley, the question of: “What is the worst ethical problem in high school sports in the Santa Clarita Valley?” was posed.

One coach replied: “I believe it is coaches not sharing their athletes. Coaches tend to tell players, ‘If you go out for another sport, you won’t start for my team.’ Of course they don’t mean it. I tell athletes, that coaches will play the players that will help them win. Period.”

Maggiora has seen such irresponsibility before.

“It’s not a written rule, but (I’ve seen) if you’re a spring coach and a kid’s playing a winter sport, don’t bother coming out,” he said.

The battle for athletes was said to have caused animosity between some prep programs in the Santa Clarita valley.

Ballard, Bornn and Maggiora have pledged that they won’t be the next.

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