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Routine Changes: School district policy allows athletes more time to study during Finals
by Dan Eckles
Jan 17, 2012 | 813 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune file photo - Sparks High boys basketball coach Dan Schreiber (shooting the ball) has cut his practice time down by 30 minutes over the next few days. The object is to give student athletes more time to focus on their studies during the current Finals Week.
Tribune file photo - Sparks High boys basketball coach Dan Schreiber (shooting the ball) has cut his practice time down by 30 minutes over the next few days. The object is to give student athletes more time to focus on their studies during the current Finals Week.
Don’t be surprised this week if the parking lots at the Rail City’s three high schools look a little barren, even in the early afternoon. That’s because this is Finals Week and local students are out of classrooms and most are far away from school by lunchtime.

It also means there are no prep athletic contests for Washoe County schools during the week. High school basketball and wrestling teams can and do practice this week but are not allowed to play in games or matches until final exams are completed.

“The kids are taking final exams and we want the kids to do well,” said Ken Cass, the WCSD’s coordinator of athletics. “We don’t want kids out until 10 or 11 after a game and then coming back the next morning to school at 7:30 or 7:45 to take two exams that day. That’s our district policy and it’s been in existence for several years. We don’t want games to take away from exams.”

The last of exams are scheduled for Friday and after taking a hiatus this week, the Northern 4A’s athletic schedule kicks back into gear with a full slate of games on Friday night.

The trio of Sparks high schools are all under the umbrella of the WCSD and all abide by the policy. Local coaches have a variety of approaches to handle the week, but all seem to take it in stride, despite how it changes up the routine.

“I wish we had another game during the week, but it’s been this way for years,” Sparks boys basketball coach Dan Schreiber said. “It gives the kids a couple extra days to heal up if there are injuries and they get to take care of academics, which is the most important part. It’s got good and bad. From a coaching standpoint, you make the most of it.”

Teams may not play during the week, but most do still get in two games. Reed and Spanish Springs, as well as other Northern 4A schools, will play back-to-back games Friday and Saturday. That is an oddity. In fact its the only place on the Northern 4A master schedule where schools do play back-to-back weekend games.

“We’re going to practice earlier this week, from 1-2:30,” Reed girls basketball coach Sara Schopper said. “We’ll get the kids home earlier so they can study and focus during that evening time.

“But we have to go hard this week. We have to prepare for two games back to back.That’s harder. Usually, we have a game and then can practice before another game. We can’t have easy practices. We have to keep our intensity. We might not get as many shots up or as much fundamental stuff done this week, but school is No. 1.”

Spanish Springs boys hoop coach Kyle Penney had similar sentiments.

“We look at Finals Week as now we’ve got a whole week to prepare for that first game,” Penney said. “This gives us a chance to get back to basics and get more conditioning done early in the week. We don’t change anything … It’s going to be tough to play back-to-back games Friday and Saturday. I like the fact we get a week to prepare for Hug, but I don’t like that we turn around and play a day later.”

In both boys and girls basketball, Reed will play at North Valleys Friday and host Spanish Springs Saturday. Spanish Springs hosts Hug Friday before going to Reed Saturday.

Veteran SSHS girls coach Christine Eckles says the week can be a nice respite from the normal routine of Tuesday and Friday games.

“I like it. I enjoy having four straight solid days of practice to work on things,” she said. “With no games this week, there is less for the kids to focus on and more time to study and get their academic stuff in line. It falls at a decent time. We are right at the midway mark of league play so it’s nice to have a little bit of extended practice to work on things that need more repetitions. Timing wise it works for us.”

Basketball teams aren’t the only squads affected by Finals Week. Local high school wrestlers are busy hitting the books as well. It is common routine for schools to have a league dual meet on Wednesdays and non-league tournaments over the weekend. However, this week, there is no mid-week dual.

Still, the athletes and coaches on the mats seem to be unfazed.

“We’ll practice the same way we always do,” Reed wrestling coach Dan Barraza said. “We’re still going to roll the same way. I did give the kids Monday off. This deep in the season the kids need an extra day to get healthy for this final push. I kind of do wish Finals Week was before Christmas break, but it doesn’t really make that big of a difference.”

Barraza may eventually get his wish.

The Carson City school district and Reno’s private Catholic high school, Bishop Manogue are already both operating on a calendar that called for an earlier start date to the school year but also finished the first semester before Christmas break. WCSD students come back from Christmas break for one week of classes before getting into Finals Week, as opposed to wrapping up before the extended time off during the holidays. However, the WCSD is examining that procedure and is currently asking for input on its Web site regarding future school calendars.

“It’s definitely being talked about,” Cass said. “In fact, there’s a survey on the school district’s Web site that shows a couple options, but there’s nothing in place for next year. The survey is talking about starting for the 2013-14 school year.”

Cass said there are pros and cons to the different options but encouraged parents to check out the survey. It is available at

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