Virginia high school principals don't agree with many parents about how much athletic activity their children can or should endure. So when they were asked to make an exception to a Virginia High School League rule that prohibits young athletes from playing on both their high school and club soccer teams in the same season, the principals said no.

The league proposed the change, which would allow soccer players to participate on school teams and area teams in the same season, in response to requests from parents.

Under the proposal, high school games and practices would be scheduled during the week, with makeup games on weekends, and club teams would play on Saturdays.

The school team would take priority if there were scheduling conflicts. But last month more than 200 principals from public schools across the state voted, and the rule stands.

"Basically, principals of the state decided not to allow {the change}. They felt that the kids with their studies and a seven-period school day" should not be involved in that much after school activity, said William E. Jackson, principal of Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax.

"In trying to get more rigorous academically, they felt they should stay with the original rule," he said.

"The principals felt {the proposal} put too much pressure on the students and maybe it was asking too much of athletes," said Earl Gillespie, executive secretary of the league. "It was put in there to protect the student from overexposure to the sport."

According to the rule, athletes cannot play on high school and club teams in the same sport in the same season.

The rule excludes gymnastics, cross country, tennis, golf and swimming, which are considered independent or individual sports.

Virginia AAA high schools play their soccer season in the spring, with playoff games running through the end of May. Local club and select teams must start preparing for summer regional and national tournaments about that time, but often without key players who are still playing with their high school teams.

Virginia AA schools play their soccer season in the fall, as do Maryland and private high schools and many local club teams. Players who choose to participate on their high school team must miss that entire club season. For players who are eager to travel or play in annual fall tournaments, where they may catch the eye of college recruiters, the choice is to play for their area select team.

"There are five kids that I know of who would have helped us this year" if they hadn't chosen to play with their select teams, said Ray Aubel, coach of the girls team at Broad Run High School. But "as a high school coach I am worried about a well-rounded young lady, not just soccer. Saturday and Sunday are days to rest after a hard week of practice and games. If they were to play on the weekends as well, that would put a tremendous stress on their bodies. I think that would wear the kids out."

Carolyn Rice, coach of the women's team at American University, agrees that players get more exposure when playing for select teams. "Most college coaches spend more time watching select games. There are more of them, the teams are not made up of mixed age groups . . . and the coaches can be more selective about who is on their team," said Rice, who coached the Lake Braddock girls team for nine years. Also, many college coaches do most of their recruiting in the fall, during the club season, she said.

"I don't think you will find a perfect situation . . . . Ideally the high school season should be in the fall when the rest of the world is playing it. Yes, there would be a conflict with field hockey. They should play field hockey in the spring," Rice said.

Cathy Finch made the decision to play for Broad Run after years of playing with her Loudoun County select team.

"In high school you're really a team. You all go to the same school and it gives me a better feeling," said Finch, a sophomore in her second season on the varsity team.

"I just want to go out and have fun and not necessarily to get noticed. {The players} should be able to choose, though," she said.

"For those who want to play for high school but want to get noticed, I think they should be able to decide if they can do both."