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A focus on a distraction

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Coaches constantly tell players to focus on only those things they can control. Don't let the peripheral distract you from the essential. It's good advice. Read on.


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• One of those peripheral items caught coach Mike Leach's eye this week at Washington State. And he decided to make it a focal point. It has to do with injuries and the reporting of such. Here, I'll let Christian Caple tell you what's up. Leach spoke with reporters for a few minutes about the reporting of injuries that occur in practice,” Christian wrote in his blog post after yesterday's practice. “The upshot: injuries that occur during practice are not to be reported, and anyone who violates this policy will lose all access to the program — no coach interviews, no player interviews, etc. So, if you wonder in the coming days why we're not reporting injuries from practice, this is why.” What does this mean to you? Before we can answer that, we have to present some background information. Like a lot of other college coaches these days, Leach has closed practice. That's his right and he's got understandable reasons for doing it. Mainly, he wants to limit distractions and wants to keep what the Cougars are doing under wraps, limiting the opportunity for WSU's opponents to learn about his team. If, say, Auburn, knew what WSU was up to, he feels it would be a competitive advantage for the Tigers. And the coach feels injuries, who will play, who may not play, falls under that competitive advantage heading. OK. It's why Oregon closed practices, Washington, USC and others. But there is one big difference. Those schools can actually close practice. The hold their practices in places no one can see. That's not the case at WSU. Rogers Field is in the middle of campus. The library, the CUB and other buildings overlook the facility. The Cougars put lining in the fences surrounding the fields last season, which eliminated the distraction the players had when other students would walk by, but it doesn't keep interested bystanders from watching, though they are farther away then they used to be. And some of those interested bystanders are part of the media. They are not there because they want to be there – as someone who did it for more than five years, believe me on this one – but because, if they didn't, they would be at a competitive disadvantage. And not just from other media outlets anymore. As Shakespeare used to say, therein lies the rub. Leach can try to limit what those folks who cover the team write by threatening to freeze them out of contact with the program – a potent threat I'll grant you, but one I'm not sure the folks at The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication would approve of (and I know the namesake of WSU's journalism program would rail against) – but that won't solve the competitive disadvantage problem. See, in these days of social media, when everyone can play at being a reporter, there is nothing stopping a budding Julian Assange from tweeting or facebooking or tumblring every injury that occurs on the practice field if they want. It's not too farfetched to think of a student studying in the library, bored with what she's reading in her Economics textbook, looking down, seeing something important and tweeting it out. If what happened on the field is important enough, it will be retweeted and retweeted, spreading like an August wildfire in Idaho. And the whole thing would be outside of anyone's control. Now the news is in the public domain. Every news entity in the Northwest would have to report it, either to confirm it or debunk it. Every newspaper, every television station, every radio station, every Internet site. It is news their consumers want to know (read the questions posed to reporters in live chats or in other public forums; almost every fan wants to know who is playing where). What does WSU do then? Ban everyone from talking with its coaches? Not answer questions after games? That doesn't seem the right way to build up interest in a program that is trying to regain relevancy after years of tough times. And where does that leave us? The folks who actually try to get things right, to put things in context, who would take the time to ask if what they saw is really what happened – believe me, oftentimes injuries that look serious are not and those that look minor are major – will be out in the cold. The easy answer to all this is one that is out of WSU's reach right now. If the competitive disadvantage is so important, the Cougars need to have a practice facility like Oregon or Washington has, one that is not visible to the outside world. They don't. Washington State has an indoor facility, but it isn't up to Oregon's standards and wouldn't work. But something of that ilk is the only way to ensure perfect privacy in a public setting like a university. And remove all the peripheral distractions.

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• WSU: OK, so what happened yesterday? The WSU defense is prepping for the speedy nature of modern-day offenses, which means the players have to be ready to think quickly and be in good enough shape to handle rapid-fire plays. Christian explores the philosophy in a story and a blog post. He also has his usual morning post with links. … Christian held a live chat yesterday. … Auburn is now focusing on the Cougars as school begins. … Missed this on Wednesday but, because it leads with the Cougars, we will pass along Jim Allen's soccer preview here. … Rian Lindell wasn't out of a job long. … Marquess Wilson is trying to stick with the Bears.

• EWU: As the season opener nears, Jim is about out of positions to report upon. Today he has the linebackers. He also has a morning post with links and will have a live chat at noon.

• Indians: The Indians needed a pick-me-up. Thank goodness Tri-City was on the schedule. The result was a 10-4 Spokane win. Chris Derrick was there and has a game story and a blog post.

• Chiefs: Chris was also at the first practice of the Chiefs' season and has this story and blog post.

• Preps: High school football season opened yesterday (the rest of the fall sports begin next week) and Greg Lee kicked off our coverage with this feature on Shadle Park's Brett Rypien. … Mead has lost one of the best wrestlers in the area's history. Chandler Rogers is moving to Oklahoma. Greg has the story.

• Mariners: I got a nice email yesterday from a reader pointing out the story I couldn't find, the one from Geoff Baker saying it was a good time to announce Jack Zduriencik's contract extension, was there all along. It was just contained in the blog post about Eric Wedge. See, I told you I was blind. … And, yes, Zduriencik's contract was extended a year before the season began. Chuck Armstrong admitted it yesterday. The team will have some sore of (now unneeded) official announcement “soon.” … As for the on-the-field stuff, things turned out pretty well for the M's again yesterday with a 5-3, road-trip-closing win over Oakland, giving the team a 5-4 mark on a tough eight-game trip (at Tampa Bay, Texas and Oakland, all playoff contenders). The unlikely hitting hero yesterday was Brendan Ryan, with three RBI, including the game-deciding runs. He was only playing because Nick Franklin is banged up.

• Seahawks: After practice Wednesday, it was pretty obvious Russell Wilson is excited about his return to Wisconsin – the quarterback spent his final collegiate season playing for the Badgers. … Reports have rookie lineman Jordan Hill out for a while, which might be a blow to the defense. … Jermaine Kearse is blossoming for the Hawks. … They hope the same thing will happen for Tony McDaniel. … Bob Condotta held a live chat yesterday. … The 49ers may sign former Seahawk Seneca Wallace as a backup quarterback.

• Sounders: The rivalry game with Portland on Sunday will also be Clint Dempsey's first home game, which is another way you distinguish the Sounders from the Mariners. If the M's ever signed or traded for a player of Dempsey's caliber – OK, we know that's not happening – the team would make sure his first game was against the Twins on a night when 12,000 were expected, thus ensuring a sellout. They wouldn't debut him against the Yankees on a Saturday night when Felix was pitching when 48,000 tickets had already been sold. … Dempsey is eager to get his first taste of the rivalry and the home crowd. … Brad Evans knows both and knows what Dempsey is in for. … Eddie Johnson seems to play his best in rivalry games. … The Sounders can take the Cascadia Cup lead. … Seattle made a minor roster change yesterday, bringing in a midfielder.

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• We'll be on the radio today from 3 to 6 p.m. talking about all these subjects and more. You can listen here if you like. We'll be back here tomorrow. Until then …


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Jim Allen (@srjimallen) Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Jim Meehan (@srjimm) Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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