Administrative foul-ups in the District more than occasionally lead to high school sports events being rescheduled

By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 4, 2009

It was the biggest home game of the season for the School Without Walls boys' soccer team on Monday. The Penguins were playing two-time defending D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association champion Wilson on SWW's home field at the Marine Barracks on 8th and I Streets in Southeast. More than 100 students and parents had made the trek across town to watch the game.

Pregame warmups, though, seemed to go a little longer than usual, and the Penguins started to get a sinking feeling. The game couldn't start until the referees arrived.

"After warming up for 45 minutes, they got the idea that something was wrong," Walls co-Coach Roy Kelly said. "But they didn't take it too hard. They're used to it."

The refs never came, and the game was postponed. It was the fourth time this season the boys' soccer team at School Without Walls, located in Foggy Bottom, was ready to play only to have an administrative issue beyond the team's control prevent kickoff.

DCPS Athletic Director Marcus Ellis, whose office is responsible for scheduling games, arranging for transportation, and securing sites, officials and trainers, did not respond to phone and e-mail requests for comment. DCPS spokesperson Jennifer Calloway said Ellis's office is aware of the "transportation and staffing issues" and "is enacting a plan to ensure [they] do not occur moving forward."

Ellis took over his position in August, becoming the DCIAA's fourth athletic director since February 2008.

SWW's season-opener against Ballou at the Marine Barracks on Oct. 5 was postponed because no bus showed up at either school to take the team to the game. The Penguins' second contest, scheduled against Bell two days later at the same site, could not be played because there was a large tent on the field that could not be moved (it was part of a scheduled Octoberfest event). The game was rescheduled for Oct. 8 at Bell, and even though both teams arrived that day, they could not play because no athletic trainer was assigned to the game, a prerequisite for all DCPS games.

Calloway said the coaches of all the teams whose games were postponed will meet to choose make-up dates. The Penguins (3-1-1) have played five of their eight scheduled games.

"There have been some issues [in previous years], but we've had the most with games not being played this year," said Kelly, who is in his third year with School Without Walls. "I know the fans were definitely getting irritated."

The DCIAA regular season is scheduled to end Wednesday, with Walls playing at Coolidge. The playoffs start on Nov. 16, and Kelly said he hopes to make up the three postponements in the interim.

Monday "was the last straw," said Terry Lynch, vice president of the School Without Walls parents association. "It's been a travesty for the student-athletes that scheduling is keeping them from playing. It needs to be fixed."

Other School Without Walls teams have had similar issues. According to SWW cross-country Coach Michael Huff, no bus showed up to pick up his team for the city-wide Lafayette Invitational on Oct. 6 at Colmar Manor Park. Huff said his athletes were forced to get to the meet themselves.

"You've got to roll with the punches," said Alan Holt, in his first year as the school's athletic director, "or else you're going to make yourself miserable."

Dunbar athletic director Johnnie Walker said these types of logistical concerns do not seem to be happening with more frequency this season.

"We had more of those problems last year than this year," said Walker, who added the only scheduling mix-up this season for the Crimson Tide involved a bus arriving late.

The fact, however, that they exist is troubling for Wilson boys' soccer Coach Kenny Owens.

"The kids are starting to get used to it and that's when it becomes a problem," said Owens, who played at Wilson in the late '90s. "They start to think that it's okay for things to go wrong and that's not good. . . .

"It's been going on for years, so it's nothing new. I'd give Marcus the benefit of the doubt, but as long as they keep rotating guys in every year, it's going to keep happening."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company