Student athletes who repeat grades to get bigger are ‘cheating,’ Codey says
Just how old is that quarterback again? How about that power forward?
If students are cutting it academically in grades six, seven or eight, but intentionally repeat grades, their time in high school athletics should be limited, says State Sen. Dick Codey (D-Livingston).
The idea, he said, is to keep older (and more developed) teens from competing with peers who are the typical ages for their grades. So under a Bill Codey plans to introduce, if a student repeats a grade unnecessarily, that student is only eligible to play for three years.
It's a practice known as "redshirting" — and one Codey wants to see stopped.
“As a youth basketball coach I’ve been seeing more and more situations where the teams we’re playing against have kids that have been kept back," Codey said in a phone interview with New Jersey 101.5. "And obviously at a young age that’s a huge advantage and they’re doing it — whether it’s the parents doing it or the coach to gain athletic advantage — and in the long run I don’t think they’re doing their children any good and it’s a practice that we’ve got to address."
The issue came to light in part as result of the story of Isaiah Briscoe of Roselle Catholic, who repeated the eighth grade to have a competitive edge in high school. He’s now a freshman at the University of Kentucky with a basketball scholarship.
“We want to send a message that this is a bad practice and you’re not doing the child any good because they’re, in a sense, cheating because they’re trying to gain an advantage. And at the end of the day the odds of a child becoming a Division I athlete or professional athlete are extremely, extremely small.” Codey said.
The practice of repeating grades for sports-related reasons, rather than academic problems, has grown substantially over the last decade, according to Codey. A recent NJ.com story noted several of the state's standout, record-breaking athletes had each repeated the eighth grade. Among them — Karl-Anthony Towns, Brian Toal, Isaiah Briscoe and Johnny Sebastian.
And he said there’s also a health risk when older and bigger kids are playing against younger and smaller children.
“Believe me, as someone who coaches fifth-, sixth-, seventh-, eighth-graders and even high school kids, an extra one-year of physical development is huge,” Codey said.
Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.