Garden Grove League without ‘Grove’?

SHOULD THERE be a Garden Grove League without Garden Grove High? It could happen (OC Tribune photo).

Years ago a recreation official told me “There are only two things wrong with youth sports. Parents.” I’d hate to lump all fathers and mother with kids in Little League, NJB and Pop Warner football into one pile, but adults in charge of kids’ games has been a challenge for years.

This is my segue to the issue of league assignment in the CIF-SS. On Monday representatives of high school athletic leagues will meet to discuss proposals to re-shuffle those alliances to reflect something which is often called “competitive equity.”

According to Steve Fryer, prep columnist for The Orange County Register, Orange High wants out of the Golden West League and Marina wouldn’t mind leaving the Sunset League. Additionally, “most of the Garden Grove League schools would like to see Garden Grove [High] in a different league.”

A principal (no pun intended) reason for all this changing of partners is the dominance – in my mind misplaced – of football. Marina, for example, feels stuck in a league with stronger gridiron programs such as Edison and Fountain Valley, and is tired of ending up toward the bottom of the standings.

In the GGL, Garden Grove High has dominated the league on the gridiron for almost a decade. Before than, it was Pacifica that ruled the league roost, before it was exiled (twice) to the Empire League.

The GGL was created as a kind of city league, gathering together all the schools from the Garden Grove Unified School District. The resulting seven-team conference – even with its uneven number – worked well until athletic directors got tired of their teams losing to the Mariners and bounced them out.

If Grove is similarly tossed and a team from outside brought in, the so-called “Garden Grove” League would have half its number be schools from outside the city. And how can you have a “Garden Grove League” without Garden Grove High?

To me, this reflects the wrong idea about what used to be called “schoolboy” football. Prep sports are becoming increasingly professionalized. There are nationally televised games and blue-chip athletes skip from one school to another in hopes of better exposure to college recruiters.

The original idea of organized high school sports was for boys and girls to represent their schools and cities against nearby schools, creating associations and rivalries which could become lasting memories.

At the highest levels of sports, much lip service is given to the idea that participation is paramount to winning. That’s a sad joke. Everywhere the mantra of “winning is everything” rules. Grownups teach it to kids by their example, and much re-leaguing is part of that.

One more point. I don’t see why the performance of football teams is the deciding factor. Let’s face it – except for a few high-profile programs such as Mater Dei and Edison – the days when Friday Night Lights was the biggest show in town are long since past. I’ve been to many an area prep game in which the entire attendance couldn’t have passed 200 people, and that in a stadium which seated 5,000 souls.

Let the leagues alone, at least for a while. On-field fortunes rise and fall, but ethical standards are – or should be constant. Just let the kids play.

STANDINGS CHECK: On the subject of leagues and such, here is how things stand for our local prep conferences for baseball. League play starts this week for softball.

Garden Grove League: La Quinta (3-0), Garden Grove (2-1), Los Amigos (2-1), Rancho Alamitos (1-2), Santiago (1-2), Bolsa Grande (0-3).

Sunset League: Huntington Beach (4-0), Marina (2-0), Los Alamitos (1-1), Fountain Valley (1-2), Edison (0-2), Newport Harbor (0-2).

Golden West League: Segerstrom (2-0), Ocean View (4-0), Loara (2-1), Orange (1-1), Santa Ana (0-2), Westminster (0-4).

Monday Morning Coach is written by Pete Zarustica.

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