New Law Will Impact Student-Athletes in South Florida

Let's say your son or daughter is a gifted tennis player and you want him or her to play for a powerhouse program, such as the one at Michael Krop High School in northeast Miami-Dade. If you don't live within a public school's boundaries, the only way in is through a choice or magnet academic program.

South Florida's public schools offer a tremendous range of those choice options now. A new state law that goes into effect next year will open the floodgates even more, allowing students to shop for schools, and in the process, allowing student-athletes to transfer to better sports programs. Will it create a wild west atmosphere, with star players moving from school to school?

"The negative side is those schools that have been struggling to grow in sports may continue to struggle because most of the time the parents are gonna want to get their kids into schools that have a long tradition of getting their kids scholarships," said Mike Kypriss, the tennis coach at Krop High.

Kypriss is also a former athletic director and after 35 years of coaching high school athletes, he worries the new law could create a landscape in which the strong athletic programs will get stronger, and the weak, weaker.

"Kids want to go to top programs, they want the exposure, we've been a state champion four out of five years," said Karlton Johnson, the principal of Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach, describing his boys basketball program.

Johnson is a former professional basketball player himself, and said the freedoms in the new law could bring unintended consequences. Johnson said some athletes looking to transfer schools might be better off staying as the big fish in a smaller pool of talent.

"We've had transfers come over to Blanche Ely and didn't do as well as they did at their home school, and I think that's a conversation that coaches need to have with parents," Johnson said.

On the plus side, the new law may have the effect of leveling the playing field between public schools and private schools who compete in the same divisions.

"I just think the private schools have always had an advantage, their boundaries have no limit, and I've been a victim as a coach of losing some kids to private schools," Kypriss said. "Now those kids can come in from another area and come to another school and that way it gives some flexibility for the public school to match up with the private school."

It's no secret that local private schools like St. Thomas, American Heritage and Cardinal Gibbons thrive with transfer players in various sports.

"We're not a prep school or a private school where you can solicit and you can recruit kids from all over the country," Johnson said.

It's also true that many public schools feature players who have transferred from other schools. Students find a way to move to what they perceive as greener athletic pastures, the new law will just make that process easier.

"This will give an opportunity for students to be successful academically and/or athletically where they and their families are most comfortable," said Leslie Brown, who is in charge of school choice programs for Broward County Public Schools.

Under the new law, a school must still have classroom space for a transfer student to be admitted, but if you live in Broward County and your son wants to play football for Miami Central, or your daughter wants to play basketball for Miami Norland, it will be possible.

Legally possible.

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