It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”
Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.”

Those two quotes, attributed to legendary UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden, may provide some insight into a change whose time has come to Iowa.

We published two stories today about high school basketball players who received identical honors from the same organization. Both Cole Smith of Vinton-Shellsburg and Jackie Barz of Union were named to the Iowa Basketball Coaches Association’s All-Academic Teams.

There are two teams, actually, one for the guys, one for the ladies.

The awards are virtually identical; the IBCA honored 24 female students this year, and 21 males.

The 21 boys honored (and by the way, it’s customary in media to identify high school players as “boys” or “girls” and college players as “men” or “women,” in case you are wondering about my choice of nouns) have an average ACT composite score of 29.6 and an average GPA of 3.98.

The 24 girls on the IBCA’s 2017 All-Academic team have an average GPA of 4.01 and an average ACT composite score of 28.8.

The boys and girls all received letters from the IBCA, praising them for their hard work, and their success on the court and in the classroom.

However, there is one big difference:

On March 10, Cole and the 20 other boys who were named to the IBCA All-Academic Team will walk to the court during the Class 2A State Championship Game at the Wells Fargo Arena, to receive their certificate and recognition from the crowd.

Each player has been offered up to three free tickets, for him and his parents, along with the opportunity to purchase tickets for family members.

No such honor, however, has been planned, for Jackie and the 23 other girls the IBCA has honored in the female All-Academic Team.

I first noticed this while speaking to the parents of Cole and Jackie.

I confirmed it with an email from ICBA Executive Director Don Logan, who sent me this reply, and I quote: “The Girls do not get honored like the boys do, unfortunately. Girls get their certificate sent in the mail and get their names in the state program… Separate is not equal.”

But, it should be.

The ICBA deserves credit for honoring Iowa players for their academics. Clearly, the organization works hard to honor the basketball’s most successful students, and spends a lot of time to do this.

And as someone who has been to State high school competitions, I understand that those things are jam-packed with activities that go well beyond the games. Finding a place and time to honor those 24 girls would take a significant amount of time and energy.

And Logan explained the challenges the IBCA is facing:

There is one larger issue to consider,” says Logan. “There are two organizations in Iowa.”

The Iowa High School Athletic Association governs boys sports and tournaments; the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) works with girls events. 

Logan explained that the IBCA has been honoring academic teams (both boys and girls) for almost 30 years, and that the IGSHAU has its own all-academic team.

The Girls Union would be in a political bind to honor our selections and not the IGCA selections, or vice versa,” explains Logan. “We have asked through the years but it never has been opened. As long as we have two organizations, there are going to be separate issues and each is going to do it their way as to help justify why there has to be two groups controlling Iowa prep sports. We are just pleased that the IHSAA allows us to highlight the good players and outstanding students on the boys’ side in a manner that is classy.”

But they deserve it as much as the guys do.

The little details are vital,” says America’s most legendary college coach. “Little things make big things happen.”

We expect our coaches to ask for the best from their players – our kids. And from the organizations that work with them. 

The IBCA and IGHSAU can, and should, find a way to work together to set an example of giving one’s best by finding a way to honor the young ladies on the IBCA All-Academic team the same way it honors the young men.

It’s a small gesture that few would notice (at least few seem to have noticed the disparity, so far). But it would make a big difference.