Anywhere but Blair

Dec. 10, 2001, midnight | By Lincoln Fischer | 19 years, 1 month ago

Athletes pick private schools for more opportunities

Three years ago, Joey Young came to a fork in the road. He had an opportunity to play basketball for a big public high school, Blair, or a small private high school, Good Counsel. Many competitive athletes like Young must make this choice at some point in their careers—either to take a leap and play for a big-name private school or to represent their home schools in front of the people they grew up with.

Young successfully made it into the Communication Arts Program (CAP) at Blair, but chose to attend Good Counsel after coaches offered him a scholarship to play for the local Catholic school's program.

Young accepted Good Counsel's offer and currently is a starting varsity forward. He stands by his decision and does not regret choosing a private school over Blair. "I just thought it would be a better bet to go to a school with a better reputation for sports," he says.

Head varsity boys' basketball coach Jeff Newby feels the gap in the level of competition between public and private school conferences is one of the biggest reasons Blair loses some talented athletes to private schools. "Because [private schools] are allowed to recruit, [they are] definitely a step above county ball," he says. It is illegal for any Montgomery County public school coach to contact a potential athlete.

In the 1998-1999 basketball season, Newby coached Tyronne Beale, a freshman on Blair's JV team at the time. Newby said Beale had the potential to be "one of the top three players in the county" if he stuck with Blair.

The six-foot-eight-inch Beale left Blair in the beginning of his sophomore year for Archbishop Caroll, a private catholic high school in Washington, D.C. Beale, a starting power forward and captain on Caroll's varsity team, felt that Blair's conference was not competitive enough for his ability and thought he would not get as much recognition playing for a public school.

Blair football coach James Short shed some light on another reason why athletes choose smaller private schools over Blair. "A lot of kids have problems with the size of the school," Short says. "It is a completely different environment in private schools, and a lot of kids like that.

Juggling the heavy workloads that come with programs like the CAP and the Magnet at Blair while attempting to lead a successful athletic career, is not the easiest thing to do. This factor proved to be the main turnoff to Jessica Holsey, a senior at Sidwell Friends High School, who declined an invitation to the Magnet Program three years ago.

Holsey, four-year starting point guard on the girls' varsity basketball team, had a number of friends in the Magnet who convinced her that Blair might not be in her best interests. "I wanted to go to a place where I could get a good education and play a sport that would not get in the way," she says. Holsey recently committed to play basketball for Harvard University.

While people like Holsey, Beale and Young may opt to take the more glamorous private school route, some exceptional athletes have stuck with Blair when confronted with a similar choice.

Standout wide receiver, cornerback and special teams stalwart Cedrick Mack, a junior, just finished his second successful year on Blair's varsity football team. Before he came to Blair, he went to a passing league camp at Gonzaga High School, where top high school coaches came to recruit talented prospects.

Though coaches have contacted Mack during his Blair career, Mack has stuck with Blair. "I was here when we were on the bottom, so I'll be here when we're on the top," Mack says.
The DeMatha High School boys' varsity soccer team, which finished this past season ranked thirteenth in the nation, expressed interest in Blair junior midfielder Alieu Terry during his freshman and sophomore years. But Terry decided his academic and social lives were more important.

A number of players on Terry's club team are stars on DeMatha's varsity soccer team, and a few of them have attempted to convince Terry to transfer, but Terry has remained resolute because he feels his life is fine the way it is. "I talk to my friends all the time about this, and we know we could play [for strong private schools], but we've been going to school with people our whole lives, and we like it this way," he says.

The practice of athletes being scooped out of Blair's hands may be disheartening to some coaches and athletes at Blair, but Short does not let it get to him. "A lot of kids leave before ninth grade, so you cannot cry over something you never had," he says.

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Lincoln Fischer. Senior sports writer Lincoln Fischer was born in Manhattan, New York on May 1st 1985. He presently lives in Takoma Park with his mother, father and sister. His father, Craig, is an editor for Pace Publications, which produces a number of newsletters related to criminal … More »

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