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Polls are not perfect

By Staff
Charles Prince, Sports Editor
Opinion polls are far from perfect. They have been part of the sports world since 1936 when the Associated Press came out with the first college football poll. Since then several polls have been created for many other college sports.
Soon the idea filtered down to the high school level. Now in any state in the country you have a high school poll for just about any sport that's in season.
The polls are designed to give recognition to the athletics and teams who are having outstanding seasons.
They usually accomplish that purpose, but they do not always identify which is the best team in a given sport. There are times when the polls have picked the right team as the best in the state. For example, John Carol High School was ranked No. 1 in the Alabama Sports Writers Association 6A boy's basketball poll for the entire season last year. The ranking proved to be correct when John Carol went on to capture the state championship.
There are, however, instances when the polls show their imperfections. Take the case of Cold Springs Lady Eagles in this season's Class 2A poll.
Cold Springs dropped their first game of the season and then rolled to 12 straight wins. After the 12 wins, the Lady Eagles cracked the Top 10 with an appearance at No. 9. The following week they lost three games, due in part to the absence of star point-guard Natalie Mullins who was out with an ankle injury. Time for Cold Springs to fall out of the poll, right? Wrong-they moved up five spots to No. 4 the next week with a 12-4 record.
I covered the Lady Eagles earlier this year and they are impressive, but how does any team move up after three losses? Perhaps some of the voters didn't want them to fall out of the poll due to any injury. Regardless of the reason, Cold Springs head coach Tammy West must have been puzzled by her team's climb. I know I was puzzled and I'm a voter in the ASWA poll!
After their star player returned, they won their next game to improve to 13-4. The Lady Eagles then promptly slipped four spots in the Jan. 14 poll to No. 7. Maybe some of the voters were not aware of the three losses when they voted the week before. So the next week they changed their vote to make amends for the error.
In spite of their flaws, the polls do draw attention to schools that might otherwise go unnoticed. Coaches have told me that attendance at their team's games increase after receiving a state ranking. The polls also create a level of excitement and anticipation that is not matched by the average home game. When a Top 10 team goes on the road the level of fan interest tends to be greatly increased. In addition, the polls shine a spotlight on teams that may be unknown outside of their own region or area.
High school polls are not perfect and they can be perplexing at times, but they do serve a meaningful purpose.
Anything that gets our young people the recognition they deserve is worthwhile.

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