About six weeks ago I went to a high school softball game at Fremont High. A stone’s throw away, the baseball team also played a home game.
Around the fourth inning of the softball game, a girls’ lacrosse game began on the turf football field. There was also a men’s tennis match taking place on the other side of the school campus.
Before the softball game, school athletic coach Jared Romero taped a softball player’s arm, then left to check on the tennis, later returned with an ice pack to give to someone. one in baseball, then went to lacrosse.
It was a typical busy spring sports afternoon. Do we add another sport to this mix?
Stepping back a bit, the UHSAA board voted in March to add men’s volleyball as a sanctioned sport beginning in the 2023-24 school year with competition beginning in the spring of 2024.
Let me be very clear: sanctioning men’s volleyball is great for the kids, coaches, parents and everyone involved in the sport who have worked so hard to get it sanctioned.
Men’s volleyball organizers have worked for years to get the sport sanctioned. They watched as the UHSAA board sanctioned lacrosse (2017), girls’ wrestling (2019) and competitive cheerleading (2021), wondering when or if men’s volleyball would get that accolade.
It was to be voted on in May 2020, but the sanction was postponed due to the uncertainties of the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March 2021, a motion to sanction men’s volleyball failed 8-5. Dissenting voters said it would put too much strain on an already stressed system of funding, supervision, sports coaches, bus drivers and facilities.
Finally, in March, men’s volleyball was approved for sanction and while that’s good for athletes and organizers, it’s impossible to talk about men’s volleyball without mentioning how great the addition of another spring sport is not sustainable in today’s landscape.
Men’s volleyball will be the 11th spring sport in the state, up from six in the winter and eight in the fall. The month of May is, has been and will be one of the busiest in the sports preparation calendar.
In the recently concluded Spring Sports Playoff season, games began on April 29 with the first round of the 3A and 2A Men’s Football State Tournament and ended on May 28 with the final games of the Championship Series. baseball 6A and 5A.
In the spring, there are five separate classifications for each of men’s baseball, softball and soccer, 12 athletics classes (boys and girls), six lacrosse classes (boys and girls), six girls golf classes (more 1A boys golf) and four boys tennis courts.
From Monday, May 9 through Saturday, May 28, there was a state tournament contest at a neutral site (meaning UHSAA oversees it directly instead of home school) every day except Sunday or, in other words, the 18 of 21 days in total.
Now add one more sport to the mix.
The UHSAA board of directors voted 10 to 4 to approve sanctioning men’s volleyball. The board chose spring due to easier access to officials.
Three of the four “no” votes came from voting blocks 6A and 5A who knew firsthand the kind of pressure this would place on administrators, athletic directors and athletic trainers at their schools.
In any given week in the spring across the state, there are home sporting events at least three days a week, but in reality, it’s closer to four or five days a week.
Schools are already struggling in a tense system of juggling administrators, athletic directors and coaches on a daily basis, not to mention queuing for buses, facilities, officials and, oh yeah, let’s hope it rains. not and does not throw a spanner in the delicate dance of the spring sports program.
The UHSAA board of directors did not discuss moving a spring sport to another season at the meeting it sanctioned men’s volleyball, although that is a matter of debate. discussion since.
The reality is that at least one sport, or maybe two or three, needs to move into the fall or winter to balance things out.
Start by moving boys’ tennis from spring to fall. There are lots of tennis courts in the schools, you can stagger practices, and as a former high school tennis player myself, fall and summer weather is better than spring weather for tennis.
After that it gets tricky. Girls’ golf seems easy to move into fall; however, the UHSAA just lowered the maximum limit for golf contests from 14 to 10.
That’s partly because, since the start of the pandemic, golf has seen tremendous growth both recreationally and in the school ranks. As a result, this reduces space on courses and puts more wear and tear on courses that are run in perpetual dry conditions.
There was talk of moving boys’ football to the fall, but schools rejected the idea in a poll.
It also makes sense to move boys’ or girls’ lacrosse in the fall, but whichever one you move will be pushed back by soccer, women’s soccer, or probably both due to space constraints on the turf and because these sports sometimes share the same student-athletes.
There’s likely more to be done to ease the spring stalemate: higher qualifying standards for the state track to meet over two days instead of three, Saturday doubleheaders and a Monday game for both first-round baseball 6A/5A/4A and softball tournaments (best-of-three series) instead of one game on Saturday and one, maybe two, the following Monday.
But moving the sport into the year is a palliative solution. Problems regarding the availability of supervisors, athletic trainers and so on are rooted in a shortage of staff in schools.
School districts with 6A and 5A schools need to hire more people, whether it’s another athletic director, an athletic trainer, or someone part-time to be a jack-of-all-trades. The perennial obstacle to hiring more people: money.
Right now, the path schools are taking and will continue to lead to burnout – overall, not just in sports, but that’s a whole other conversation. Adding another set of tasks to an unsustainable situation is, well, unsustainable.
But in this area, maybe it’s good that the council sanctions men’s volleyball. If the council waited for the “perfect moment” to sanction him, we could wait another 10 years,
Perhaps that’s what’s forcing some long-awaited changes in the school hallways.
Connect with journalist Patrick Carr via email at [email protected], on Twitter @patrickcarr_ or on Instagram @standardexaminersports.