The scene on the floor beside one set of bleachers at the Farris Center on Monday kind of symbolized the onset of high school All-Star week.
As athletes gathered for team pictures, room keys on lanyards with cell phones nearby formed an All-Star electronic nest of some of the most vital possessions this week.
The athletes in six sports met their coaches — some for the first time — as a week of games begins in Conway.
Monday was registration day, picture day, interview day and practice day. Baseball and softball teams had to go at it quickly. Competition begins Tuesday night.
Monday was also confusion day as All-Stars became acquainted with the UCA facilities and dormitories.
Meanwhile, All-Star coaches scrambled to fill in the gaps on their rosters with some arriving at the last minute, pillows in tow hastily packed luggage.
Nowadays, there are lot of gaps — 30 to 40 or more.
Many of the best athletes originally named All-Stars, particularly in basketball and football, pass up the games.
There are several reasons _ vacations, summer jobs, other commitments.
But a good chunk of the high-profile players who already have college scholarships are no-shows because they are already enrolled in summer school for a head start on basic courses and have reported for summer conditioning work at their chosen colleges and universities. For example, all of the University of Central Arkansas’ high school recruits are on campus.
That’s common among most scholarship institutions. If a player wants to get on the radar immediately or prepare for the rigors of college ball, he or she usually needs to show up during the summer.
Then, there’s the fear of injury. Most coaches at major institutions, such as the University of Arkansas, discourage or forbid their high school recruits from playing in All-Star games. They have their scholarship. There is nothing to prove. Coaches want their recruits to spend the summer preparing for college ball, not rehabbing from a major injury during an All-Star game.
So, All-Star coaches spend a good bit on time Sunday and Monday making phone calls to alternates.
Thus, some of these All-Star games become “Alternate Star” games to an extent.
Still, the players were chosen for a reason — ability and character and a competitive nature. Arkansas Activities Association officials, All-Star coaches and UCA and Conway city officials work hard to make it a memorable and fun week, no matter who shows up.
It’s still an honor to play and coach in the games. Lasting memories and relationships are made as the athletes from all parts and classifications in the state assembly. No doubt, there will be mingling at the various functions and an exchange of social media handles and email addresses.
Hence, that family of cell phones that didn’t remain on the floor long.
Monday is also the day the AHSCA officials go over rules for the week, which basically boil down to “be where you’re supposed to be on time” and “do the right thing.”
There was a new rule this year. “Do not sit on the counters in the dormitories.” Last year, a group of athletes overloaded one, it collapsed and the UCA dorm got new counter space courtesy of the coaches association.
But the rule that possibly attracted the most attention was one that affected the stomach: No pizza orders after 9 p.m.
Wonder how many local places will be inudated with calls for pepperoni and cheese at 8:55 p.m.?
Delivery folks may have to be All-Stars themselves.