Garrard Board adopts coach's academic methods

May 12, 2004|JIM LOGAN

LANCASTER - The Garrard County Board of Education decided Tuesday night to follow the lead of the high school's football coach in an effort to improve academics among student athletes.

In a discussion of athletic eligibility at its monthly meeting, the board was so impressed by the successes of Garrard County coach Steve Stonebraker that it voted to duplicate his approach throughout the district.

During the season Stonebraker uses "study tables," which football players who are struggling in the classroom are required to attend twice a week for an hour of tutoring and extra work.

"It's not something that's designed for their enjoyment," he told the board.

The approach paid off. Of the players who attended the study tables, only one was deemed academically ineligible for sports. Moreover, the team grade point average was 2.66. Before the season the team set a goal of a 2.5 team GPA.


Superintendent Ray Woolsey invited Stonebraker to the meeting after hearing about the coach's program, which he first encountered as a player in college.

Traditionally, Stonebraker said, coaches have tended to "motivate" students to improve their grades with lung-burning workouts. Such an approach misses the point of a player's struggles in the classroom.

"If I run him two miles, it's not going to help him with linear equations," he said.

Stonebraker's appearance was the highlight of a discussion about athletic eligibility and its enforcement in Kentucky.

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association sets eligibility standards in the state, explained Garrard High School principal Kevin Stull. It requires weekly checks of all student athletes' grades during the season to determine if they are passing. Two failing grades render players ineligible until at least one of the Fs is improved.

"You mean a kid can play if he has an F and three D-minuses?" asked board member Gary Oliver, who was clearly alarmed by the prospect.

Stull said he could.

Oliver asked if that was the right thing to do.

Answering carefully, Stull said that in some cases, playing sports is the only thing keeping some students in school. "We may have kept them off that street corner for four years," he said.

Although the discussion veered into the problem of graduating bad students with no skills, it came back to Stonebraker's study tables, which Stull said are "much better than anything we could institute" to address eligibility issues.

Board Chairman Joe Brown agreed. "You have to commend a coach who's willing to do that," he said.

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