SB 211 now must pass the House to become law, making DIAA adopt javelin as an event.

Bill making javelin a DIAA event moves on, some coaches oppose

Jarek RutzGovernment, Headlines

SB 211 now must pass the House to become law, making DIAA adopt javelin as an event.

SB 211 now must pass the House to become law, making DIAA adopt javelin as an event.

A bill that would permit scholastic track and field competitions to include the javelin event passed the Senate Tuesday – although some coaches are not happy with the idea.

Senate Bill 211, sponsored by Sen. Darius Brown, D-Wilmington, forces the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association adopt javelin as an approved event for all DIAA-sponsored track and field competitions.

The bill passed along party lines, with all six “no” votes coming from Republicans. 

High school track and field coaches from around the state said this week that the event can’t just be added without considering the impacts to schools and their coaching staffs, not to mention the additional time now needed to train 19 different events.

Brittany Keller, a track coach of 15 years, the past 10 at Ursuline Academy, told Delaware LIVE she appreciates that javelin could provide another opportunity for athletes, but there is a lot to be done and considered before adding this as an event for high school students.

“Many of the logistics stem from financial and safety concerns,” she said, which was pointed out by the legislators against the bill, notably Sen. Eric Buckson, R-Dover. 

Most schools in Delaware struggle to have enough space to safely throw discus, Keller said, and therefore cannot offer the event when they host meets. 

“Javelin would require even more space and the installation of a runway surface, as athletes should not be throwing from a grass surface due to safety concerns,” she said. “They would need a large enough field, and again, many schools simply do not have the space.”

The cost of a runway would be several thousand dollars, she said, plus the cost of javelins are several hundred dollars each and need to be replaced often as they get damaged from throws.  

Brown cited a Wall Street Journal article in July 2022 that said at least 22 states within the country have adopted the javelin as a throwing event within their high school track and field programs.

The bill also explains that the tips could be rubber in order to ensure safety, but opposing legislators don’t think simply making the tip a different material wouldn’t prevent all potential injuries. 

Matt Lindell, a coach of several sports including track and field at Cape Henlopen High School, told Delaware LIVE he has similar concerns to Keller.

“While I am not opposed to javelin as an event… the legislature is trying to bypass the traditional process that would review such concerns in making a final decision on adding an event,” he said. “In addition to those concerns, this is the first time that I can remember legislators attempting to mandate an event in our sport.”

Per the bill, schools do not have to participate in a javelin event, but obviously they would lose  points in a competition if they have no athletes for javelin, which is an Olympic sport.

“This seems like a bit of legislative overreach to me,” Lindell said. “This was not done when we added pole vault as a girls’ event in the late 1990s.”

If there is a true demand for the event, as there was with girls pole vault in the late 1990s, he said, the process should start at the school/coach/athlete level.

 That would be followed by a review that goes through the normal process with the DIAA Track & Field committee making a recommendation followed by approval of the DIAA board.

Lindell questioned whether the General Assembly would fund the costs in order to run the event. The bill did not have a fiscal note attached, which coaches interpret as meaning the school would have to fund the sport.

“I imagine that would include increases in insurance premiums that school districts pay?” he said. “If not, it is another unfunded mandate on school districts that will separate the poorer districts who cannot afford the costs of this event to those schools both public and private with the means to pay the costs.”

Buckson, who coached during his years as a teacher, agreed that it could be unnecessary legislation.

“This is what happens when you have a super majority and an individual senator with an individual issue,” he said in a text before the Senate met. “If high schools in the state of Delaware want the javelin, they should petition the DIAA to sponsor it.”

If that governing body declines, he said, then the parents or high school should approach a legislator and seek help.

“But this is being done in the reverse, and it’s wrong,” he said. 

Keller said another issue is many schools do not have a dedicated throws coach – someone who is trained and specialized in the event that could provide oversight at all practices to ensure the athletes’ safety.

“If a school doesn’t have a throws coach, they would need opportunities for training so they could learn how to coach athletes in javelin,” she said. “We need to work to make existing events more accessible before we add new events.”

She said the pole vault event often lacks economic diversity.

Keller, who serves as a member of the DIAA Track & Field Committee, said to her knowledge, this topic has not been proposed to the committee. 

“The addition of an event should be coach- and athletic director- driven by the schools as we are the ones working in the sport daily with our athletes and have a gauge on the interest from an athlete/coach/school perspective,” she said. “I am unsure where the push for the proposed legislation is coming from.”

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