The Navigators are ready to sail into uncharted waters.
With area high schools preparing for the start of the 2001 football season, a Youngstown institution is taking a step forward in basketball.
Lincoln Place/Compass Education Center, nicknamed the Navigators, has been approved for membership into the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
"The main reason we're doing this is because of the type of kids we have," athletic director Don Lisbon said. "They haven't had the opportunity to create for themselves a normal situation in public schools due to community environment, home environment or behavior."
200 youths: The youth center on East Indianola Avenue houses about 200 children and teens, ages 8 to 18, who have been referred there by juvenile courts and Children Services boards from counties around the state.
Under the supervision of the OHSAA, Lisbon said, players will feel as if they can relate to other players at area schools.
"They'll feel normal, not alienated," he said. "They won't be put into some kind of special category."
But the transition won't be easy.
With kids coming and going regularly, it will be difficult for coach Joe Remish to maintain eligible players.
"Nine times out of 10, they don't have passing grades when they get to us," Remish said.
Compass, however, works to help students reach their potential while raising their expectations.
"That's the biggest challenge for us," Lisbon said of maintaining eligibility. "We have our own guidelines. Due to the fact we go to school 12 months out of the year instead of nine months, it makes it easier for us to comply."
The OHSAA does not set a statewide minimum grade-point average, said assistant commissioner Deborah Moore. It does require a student-athlete to have passed five one-credit hour courses in the preceding grading period to remain eligible.
However, Compass forces its players to keep a 3.0 GPA to remain eligible, Lisbon said.
"If they don't have a B average or better, they're not eligible under our standards," he said. "They have an incentive.
"Once the kids become part of the athletic program, they'll tend to feel better about themselves," he said. "They'll do better and will tend to follow guidelines to keep themselves eligible."
Plays at South: Compass, which plays its home games at the former South High fieldhouse, also received membership into the Association of Christian Schools International, which includes Youngstown Christian.
ACSI affiliation will help Compass with scheduling and give its players competition of similar talent level, Remish said.
"Christian schools have a little different format, [including] prayer before games," Lisbon said. "It gives the kids a kind of base, if they would like to go that route. It enhances some things that life has to offer."
Remish is a 1990 graduate of Mooney High who went on to coach in the Columbiana and Lisbon school systems. He led the Navigators to a 6-5 record during a 2000 trial year.
"I just like to keep everything positive," he said. "I like to use life situations [with the players] as much as possible so there's more to it than just basketball."
Lisbon continues to put together the schedule for the upcoming season. He's halfway through the 20-game slate.
With more experience and an increased feel for running a program, Compass would like to schedule future games against area opponents, including those from Youngstown, Lisbon said.
"We're not quite ready yet," he said, "but we will get there."
Remish said, "Our competition level isn't there yet. Hopefully it will be someday, but I'm not out there to get us drilled and have the reputation that we're not worth playing."
XBrian Richesson covers high school sports for The Vindicator. Write him at email@example.com.