In Defense of the Shot Clock in High School Basketball

The WIAA Board of Control is set to readdress the proposed shot clock for High School Basketball

Submitted to FOCUS – This has been a controversial issue over the past year since the proposal was initially adopted. To fill in those who may not know what the proposal is, the WIAA is planning to mandate a 35-second shot clock for all varsity level boys and girls basketball games starting in the 2019-2020 season. This proposal has been met with some controversy, mostly regarding the initial costs of installing the shot clock systems and the additional per-game costs of paying someone to run the shot clock. There have been so many complaints that the Board of Control is going to take the issue up again at their meeting on Dec. 1st.

The shot clock is important to add simply to speed the game up, especially in end-of-game situations. The “slow ball” offense, where teams try and sit on the ball for long periods of time before taking a shot, is quite rare- even if it is the main reasons fans want a shot clock. The bigger issue is at the end of games. Without a shot clock, teams can hold the ball for long periods of time, forcing teams to foul much earlier in the game. This slows the game down even further and makes comebacks almost impossible. With a shot clock these end of game situations change so much because rather than having to foul, you can play 35 seconds of great defense and force the opposing team into a bad shot rather than taking three free throws.

There are play adjustments that some teams will need to adapt if this proposal is adopted. For one, teams that have always run a slow or pass-heavy offense will have to adjust. It will hurt teams that are not as strong shooting, as it will force players to take shots they may not be able to make. But coaches always say that adjustments are the key to the game and this will just be another one.

There are three ways we can fix the current proposal to make it easier on the schools and on the players:

The first is to make a decision. The vote on Dec. 1st needs to be the final vote, because schools have to start preparing to make the changes to their gyms and their game staffing. Teams need to start working with the students that will be playing under these rules to teach them how to play under the new rules. And most importantly of all, school districts need to figure out how to afford to make these changes. That brings me to my second point.

The WIAA needs to make money available to assist school districts that cannot afford to make these changes. We hear all the time that school budgets are tight and that there is not enough money to go around, and while I am sure some if not most districts will be able to find a way to pay for these systems, either through donors or tweaking their budgets, some are not going to be able to and if the WIAA is going to mandate this system they need to help those districts install it.

And finally the WIAA needs to push back the implementation date to give everyone time to adjust to the new reality of basketball with a shot clock. With all the uncertainty up to now, and then to just say “you will do all of this in two years” is not fair to the students or the schools. I think an implementation in the 2022-2023 season would be perfect, because teams can start working with their middle school kids in practice and coaches can start working on how to change what they do and not impact the current group of players that have always learned the game without a shot clock.

The shot clock is going to be a great addition to high school sports if done properly.

-Steven Okonek

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. If you would like to submit an opinion piece, please e-mail .

Steven Okonek
Author: Steven Okonek