EDITORIAL: Culture change for York High athletics
There's a culture change happening within the York High athletic department.
Led by the new athletic director, Ron Coursey, the school is setting high expectations for, and making serious demands of, its student-athletes.
It can be boiled down to one simple motto: Academics before athletics.
Novel idea, isn't it?
So far, the concept appears to be paying off.
Big plans: Coursey has big plans.
The Baltimore native is hoping to soon add some more varsity sports. The cash-strapped district is one of the largest in York County, yet it offers fewer varsity sports than any other district in the area.
He wants to build better relationships with the student-athletes, the school's fans and the business community.
And he wants the school's athletes to excel in the classroom, graduate from high school and advance to college.
It's an ambitious agenda.
Not everything has been implemented, of course. That's understandable. Coursey has only been on the job since January.
He has, however, accomplished quite a bit already.
High-profile coaching jobs: First, he had to fill the two most high-profile varsity head coaching jobs at York High — the boys' basketball and football positions.
He accomplished that in quick fashion.
He first made the popular decision to promote Clovis Gallon from his assistant job to succeed the immensely successful Troy Sowers, who stepped down as boys' basketball head coach, citing “burn out.”
He then chose former Spring Grove head coach Russ Stoner to lead the football program, which had fallen on desperately hard times, including a winless season in 2015. That hiring wasn't as universally hailed, judging by comments on social media and elsewhere.
The success of the Gallon hire is yet to be determined. His first season begins in December.
The Stoner hiring, however, looks promising. Yes, the Bearcats are again winless at 0-5, but they're much more competitive than a season ago. In fact, York High nearly stunned unbeaten Dallastown this past Friday before falling, 29-26.
Just as importantly, more kids are out for the football team. Last year's roster dwindled into the 20s by the end of the season — an alarmingly low number for such a big district.
Mandatory study halls: While more competitive teams and bigger rosters are encouraging signs, they aren't the most heartening indicators of progress at York High.
That comes every school day from 3:15 p.m. until 4:15 p.m., when every Bearcat athlete is required to attend a mandatory group study hall.
Miss one study hall and you get a warning. Miss another and you're forced to miss a practice, and if you miss a practice you can't compete in the next game.
In addition, the PIAA requires its student-athletes to have a 2.0 grade-point average to be eligible, but York High is aiming for all of its athletes to have a 2.3 GPA.
Through the first month of the season, only a few York High student-athletes have been dismissed for academic and/or disciplinary reasons.
"Overall, we are having a tremendous success rate — 95 percent of our JV and varsity athletes have stepped up and met the challenge head on," Coursey said.
Coursey brought the idea of mandatory study halls with him from his previous job in Pittsburgh, but his coaches and student-athletes seem to have bought in.
That's a hopeful beginning for Coursey and company.
The York City School District and its athletic programs have endured some well-publicized problems over the years. They've been well documented. They don't need to be rehashed here.
When something positive happens within the Bearcat community, however, that too should be recognized.
Expecting more, and demanding more, from student-athletes are positive signs.
It's a culture change that's long overdue.