There's nothing like all-state selections - like last week's publication of the boys' basketball all-state teams - to keep those cards, letters and phone calls coming.
"Is that all we get?" ask the coaches, recalling how a "slighted" player outplayed an all-state player or listing all sorts of admirable statistics. Some coaches wonder how their teams got shut out of all-state honors, while those with one selection want two and - believe it or not - those with two start pressing for three. Really."How could so-and-so be left off the all-state team," bemoan proud parents. Folks - those who think their kids and their teams are being slighted always refer to themselves as "proud parents" - call or write, echoing the coaches' sentiments that so-and-so is: 1. devastated, 2. crushed, 3. in tears, or 4. all of the above.
The response to such questions? "Go ask the coaches about it."
That might sound a bit flippant, but the recent Deseret News All-State teams in football, volleyball, boys' basketball and (coming soon) girls' basketball have actually been the Deseret News/Coaches All-State teams - with a good reason for the near-exclusive emphasis on coach balloting.
Rather than basing the all-state selections on the admittedly limited familiarity of a Salt Lake City-based writer, the current process allows for a selection committee of 100-plus potential participants - the head coaches.
Granted, I do spend a lot of time talking to coaches, keeping in touch weekly with the participants of our coaches poll, fielding a lot of phone-in game information and watching a limited number of regular-season games and a good share of the state tournament contests.
And that's not counting the time spent at all-state time (actually, state-tournament time) - stuffing envelopes with outgoing ballots, tabulating ballots, confirming name spellings, retabulating ballots, arranging for photographs, selecting MVPs, retabulating, reviewing all-state selections with editors, and rechecking the lists and vote tabulations one final time.
But a one-man prep staff - a handful of part-time correspondents notwithstanding - would be hard-pressed to confidently and comprehensively select the all-state honorees without having seen all of the state's teams and their players in more than just one setting.
Another advantage of the coach-ballot procedure is an opportunity for full representation from each of the 13 high school regions. Plus, coaches are not only aware of the competition within their own leagues, but they've seen a lot more teams - in preseason games, in scouting opponents, in watching game films, in projecting possible postseason foes, and in region and state tournaments. Some coaches go the extra mile in their balloting and compare notes with peers from other regions.
Granted, the coach-balloting process is not perfect. Some negatives: - Less-than-100-percent vote participation.
- Geographic diversity - especially in the smaller size classifications - that precludes familiarity among teams.
- Teams that advance to the tournaments and then to the final day of the playoffs benefit from increased exposure.
- Some coaches let prejudices, politics and own-team or own-region favoritism influence their voting.
However, the hope is that the numbers - both of ballots returned and of players receiving votes - will balance out the negatives.
MORE ALL-STATE STUFF: A couple of additional items regarding the all-state selection process.
- There are no givens in the selection process - the MVP doesn't always come from the championship team;, titlist teams aren't guaranteed multi-player spots on the all-state squads; seniors aren't afforded more consideration than underclass players; all-state honors are not based on a team's tournament finish or its regular-season rankings; each region is not assured a certain ratio of representation on the all-state squads or honorable-mention listings; nor is every team guaranteed a postseason honoree.
- Why might your favorite player be missing or perhaps not listed as high as you expect? Perhaps a low participation of coaches resulted in a low number of votes available. Or perhaps the votes were split among several equally talented - or near-equally talented - teammates.
- Our all-state procedure is always open to suggestions and improvements. In volleyball, for example, we've planned some improvements over our previous selection process.