Who’s in charge here?

By: Jim Linsdau/Sports Editor
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It’s likely the Whitney High football team will be asked more questions this week about Rio Americano’s player-coach controversy than game strategy. Of course, what has gone on at the Raiders’ school has little to do with the Wildcats – other than the date of the game, Oct. 13. That date was when one of its senior players had planned to skip the game and attend a baseball camp in Arizona to demonstrate his skills on the diamond. Apparently, Guillermo Salazar is quite a baseball player and that’s where his heart and perceived future lies, at least as far as attaining a potential scholarship. Rio head coach Christian Mahaffey reportedly told him to either pass up the camp or turn in his pads. Salazar did the latter. Not necessarily a big deal, but it turned out that way when 11 of Salazar’s teammates decided to support him by turning in their pads too. That was a big deal. Ultimately, the school’s principal decided to reinstate the players and fire Mahaffey and two of his assistants. High school and high school athletics have changed. It’s rare now when an athlete plays three sports and manages to keep up his or her grades as well. Some, like Salazar, can do it but now the pressures put on student/athletes have gotten much greater. That also goes for coaches, teachers and administrators. There was a time when a high school coach’s word was law and universally accepted as the price paid for playing the game. Discipline was the order of the day and it was handed down from the top – not so in this case. So one has to wonder, is the head coach of a high school football team only partially in charge of the program? Do certain issues have to put to a vote or go before a jury of one’s peers? How long before a vote is taken before games to see who’s going to start and what plays to run? One has to wonder if high school athletes really want things to become that democratic. Sure, there are coaches certain players aren’t going to like but that enmity comes more from players on the bench than the ones in the game. Starters and coaches generally get along pretty well. Salazar was a starter, but obviously baseball was more important. Mahaffey had him playing first string but felt Salazar’s dedication wasn’t enough to show up for a game as important as Whitney. That should have been case closed – Salazar goes to baseball camp and a player whose heart is into football takes his place. Now back to the dilemma of Salazar’s teammates deciding to trump authority and support him. Had Salazar the maturity he will hopefully have as an adult, he would have said no to his teammates and accepted his fate. Teenagers shouldn’t be expected to carry that kind of burden. Salazar had accepted Mahaffey’s decision but was put in a situation he should never have been in. Now he has the unenviable position of coming back to a team on which he still gets to play but knows the burden of three coaches losing their jobs is on his shoulders. Where is the adult leadership in that?