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CMS hosts athletics leadership symposium amid high school sports controversies



MATTHEWS, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools leaders hosted a new kind of pre-season work for the district’s coaches and athletic directors Friday. They held the first Athletic Leadership Symposium at Butler High School.

More than a hundred educators spent the day in workshops and seminars covering a wide variety of topics – from sports medicine and team culture to legal compliance and statewide standards. The event is part of a larger action plan from district officials to address legal and ethical issues multiple sports teams faced in the past year.

“The kids are the ones, ultimately, who are hurt by all that has happened, but all of that has happened based on the decisions of adults,” said CMS Athletic Director Ericia Turner. “It’s important we get the adults on the right page, on the same page.”

Three CMS high school football teams had to forfeit their wins from the 2021-2022 season due to player eligibility issues.

One of the teams involved, West Charlotte High School, is entering the 2022-2023 season with their coach under suspension and under investigation. CMS officials did not confirm the reason for the investigation.

Turner said more coaches are doing the right things than those doing wrong, and she wants to honor that.

“They’re definitely not out here for pay. If you knew what they get paid, you’d understand,” she said. “They’re out here because they have a heart for children and they want to do what’s right by the kids.”

The training is not mandatory, but coaches like East Mecklenburg High School’s Lennie Sanders said they were excited to participate.

“I just want to make sure I’m on the same page as CMS and I’m what they’re looking for. I want to make sure I’m putting forth my best effort,” he said. “As a coach, you have to be a continuous learner, you can’t ever think ‘oh I know it all.’”

Sanders’ years of working with student-athletes have taught him it takes a passion for the game and dedication to the team to be successful.

“At the end of the day, if we just do our jobs and it’s just about wins and losses, but our kids don’t get any better? Nobody reached their full potential,” he said.

Rocky River High School officials promoted Tyson Fernandez to the head football coach position eight days ago. He said he attended the symposium to ensure he has the resources he needs to make the jump from assistant coach to head coach.

“Of course, I’ve been around the kids for the past two years, but being the head guy, being the one making the decisions, it’s a little nerve-wracking but at the same time it’s also very exciting,” he said.

Fernandez said he’s in favor of any training that allows him to focus on putting his players first.

“You can see it on the kids’ faces, at least for me personally, these past couple of days – they’re excited to come to practice,” he said.

Turner said the symposium is the start of changing the culture around CMS sports.

“I want this to be more educational-based athletics. There’s so much more we can teach our young athletes outside of the X’s and O’s, outside of the competition.”

District officials plan to host a similar event designed for parents of student-athletes later this year.

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