A few weeks ago the Arizona Interscholastic Association released a new alignment plan for all schools that will change the face of high school athletics in Arizona as we know it.
In any argument, there are two sides to the story. The two sides — those that are for it, and those against it — are sure to go at it all day with their own reasons and beliefs, but the simple fact is it is happening.
For those who don’t know and might have been living under a rock in the past few months, the AIA removed all conference and region alignments in August and have moved toward a divisional format.
For individual and team sports, there are fewer state championship trophies to win. Schools will be aligned based on enrollment with Division I being the biggest, and Divisions II, III and IV following suit.
Individual sports such as cross country, track and field, wrestling, tennis and golf are going through the changes as we speak while team sports like football, basketball, baseball, softball and soccer begin the changes in 2010-2011.
My take on the new changes passed by the AIA executive board is this:
One, high schools will be challenged more so than ever before and state tournaments won’t be as “watered” down as in the past.
Two, the smaller schools suffer most of the consequences, having to compete against larger schools nearly four times their size to achieve a state championship when the state tournament rolls around at season’s end.
And three, athletic departments will save money on travel and AIA fees, which are being reduced by a certain percentage.
Of course, there are many middle arguments and points to be made that fall into place when looking at the two basic sides, but all three points I made have merit, and are subject to debate.
To stick with the sport I know best, which is basketball, there will be seven state championships given out come February. In 2012, there will be four.
There are about 250 schools that play basketball in Arizona, and with four divisions, that means there will be just over 60 schools in each fighting for one crown.
I believe this format is good only because it makes a state championship that much harder to attain.
But, I will say this. How fair is it to the players at schools that may have 450 to 500 students enrolled and have 20 to 30 kids come out for basketball in a given year to play a school in the state tournament that has nearly 1,800 students enrolled and may have as many as 100 come out for the sport? Sheer numbers can be difficult to overcome.
At last, however, schools may begin to see some economic relief with less travel for athletic departments to pay for with a geographical scheduling system. And in the days of athletic budgets taking a big hit, this is definitely a good thing.
To have my own soapbox moment, in the end, high school athletics isn’t supposed to be about winning in the first place.
It’s a chance to teach young individuals how to become responsible adults who become an asset to their surrounding communities.
It’s a chance to teach them how to work hard, be involved in something greater than themselves and to teach the benefits of teamwork.
Don’t get me wrong, I strive to win just like all coaches do. However, character, integrity and teaching young people how to respond through adversity are most important.
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