Does allowing student-athletes to transfer from high school to high school create unfair competition? Shawn E. Klein, a philosophy professor at Rockford (Ill.) University, takes on topics like this at The Sports Ethicist blog.
In general, when we make a rule, it is only effective if people can abide by it. Will a no-transfer rule encourage the sport to grow and be stronger and fairer? Or will it encourage people to cheat to get around it? A rule should be able to be enforced in a way that is fair and equal and covers a wide range of situations. It should be made to prevent specific harms or to accomplish a clear goal.
Part of the problem with limiting transfers is that the harm or the goal is not clear. And it may be creating harm.
Let’s look at why public schools in Georgia have permitted transfers in the first place. It may be for the arts, or science or that the school is not performing well academically. Transfers give students greater opportunity. If a student who wants to be a scientist can go to a school with better science labs, an athlete who wants to get a college football scholarship should be able to go to a high school with better athletic resources.
Do transfers create a bias for wealthier schools, which already have advantages in facilities, coaching and other support? I believe the reverse is true. You won’t have one school gather up all the talent because, in the case of football, a talented freshman quarterback can transfer to a school where he can play and not sit on the bench at a school that already has a lot of talent at that position. Transfers spread more talent around.
Another factor is the short window of time that a student-athlete has to develop his or her skills. A no-transfer rule disadvantages some populations who may not have the wealth needed to move to a new district. They are stuck, compared to someone whose family can move. Allowing transfers gives them the power of choice.
There needs to be reasonable limits to transfers. You probably would want to limit all transfers, athletic or not, to once a year, and not during the competition season (unless a student’s family moved into the district). That makes an open and reasonable opportunity for a student-athlete to choose a school that offers the best chance to develop his or her abilities.
A blanket “no transfers” restriction invites more abuse of the system, more people lying. An open and reasonable policy gives more control back to families to find opportunities for their kids. By allowing greater choice, the school system benefits academically and athletically.
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As told to Michelle Hiskey, for the AJC