Policy 402 is one of those things that has a huge impact on athletic organizations and most people don’t know anything about it. Here’s a copy you can view: Policy 402
I first learned about Policy 402 when I objected to the fact that football teams could practice on grass fields under the lights and no other sports could. This seemed very unfair to me. So when I asked about the reasons that football teams were given this privilege, I was referred to Policy 402.
The relevant portion of 402 reads:
“The use of athletic field lighting, except on synthetic field surfaces, by organized sports shall be limited to games only. The single season sport of football shall be exempt from this policy and shall be permitted to engage in lighted practices.”
So right there in black and white (on page 400.3 of the Fairfax County Park Authority Policy Manual – March 2008) the Park Authority blocks everyone except football.
Keep in mind, this means that baseball, field hockey, soccer, lacrosse, etc. are all unable to practice on lit grass fields.
To me, the practical implication has always been that the parent volunteer coaches of all the other sports have to leave their jobs earlier to make practices. Parents must leave jobs early to get their kids to practices. At the same time, football coaches and parents don’t have this issue.
Just as important, when the time changes in the fall, football teams can keep practicing on grass fields but no one else can.
Now don’t get me wrong. I do not believe that any football team should get any less practice time than they currently do. I recognize that football is a unique sport that requires kids to learn how to tackle and be tackled in ways that no other sport requires. I simply believe that they can start at 4:30 or 5 pm just like the other sports have to.
By opening the lit grass field space to be equitably distributed by CRS in the same manner that all other space is distributed, the County would more efficiently use space and would not put other sports at a disadvantage.
The other part of Policy 402 that impacts athletic organizations is the opening and closing times of Park fields. Here, the policy reads:
“Use periods of the Park Authority Fields shall be limited as follows:
Level 1 Fields: The second Saturday in April to the first Sunday in November; and
Level 2 and 3 Fields: The last Saturday in March to the third Sunday in November.
Level 4 Fields: Synthetic Turf Fields are available year round
The following exception is made to the above use periods:
- The single season sport of football shall not be subject to the closing dates.”
To understand this more completely, you should know that Level 1 Fields are the lit grass fields. Level 2 and 3 fields are the non-lit grass fields.
This portion of the policy has a huge impact on sports groups. The late start time on level 1 fields impacts baseball, softball, and lacrosse enormously. The early closing time has a major impact on soccer and creates tremendous burdens on end of fall season tournaments.
There are two issues with this part of the policy which should be addressed:
1. Why are lit fields opened later and closed earlier than the same type of unlit fields?
2. Why is football the only sport to receive special treatment under this rule?
If a club wants to let field hockey (a predominately girls sport) practice on a turf field and in the process displace a soccer team, why not let that soccer team practice on a level one field under the lights a couple of weeks into November?
Last fall, the late Labor Day created a situation where park fields were only open for seven games for the whole season. That made scheduling and planning for a full season very difficult.
Again, this policy needs to be looked and solutions need to be found.