Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘BC School Sports’

If I wanted to grow my blog audience, I could probably just write about youth sports, they are typically my most popular posts with anywhere from 2X to 10X the audience as when I write about other topics.  One in particular – Is There a Future in School Sports? gained a lot of attention, and was also published by the AASA (the School Superintendents Association) in their School Administrator Magazine.  Few topics I write about find people as polarized, passionate and wanting to engage.

I don’t hide my love of school sports.  I think they are a wonderful part of our community.  I loved playing as a student, I see the joy my children have and this is year 32 where I have been involved as a coach or administrator with school and youth sports.

So, a lot of people talk with me about the future of youth sports, school sports and ideas to reverse the perceived trends of decline in both.  This post is about ideas, some of my own, some suggested by others, some a combination of the two, that are not just the little changes around the edges – but larger changes.  I find too many people involved with sports organizations and responsible for making the rules often fall into two camps 1) they love the rules more than the kids so they think the answer to a problem is always more rules or 2) they are completely self-interested, and look to rules and structures that benefit their sport or their school without larger perspective.

My goal here is simple – we want more kids playing, more teams competing and more adults coaching.   So with that background here we go.  In no particular order:

Change the seasons

I think school soccer is smartly done.  They run boys in the fall and girls in the spring.  I know lots of people who coach both.  We all know how difficult coaches are to find so this makes a lot of sense.  Why not follow this for other sports? I would look to the two largest sports – basketball and volleyball.  Rather than both running all levels and both genders in single seasons – why not do girls basketball and boys volleyball in the fall and then do boys basketball and girls volleyball in the winter.  Or vice-versa, or alternate them.  You would absolutely get some coaches to double-up.  And this would also help with officiating challenges.  I know, club programs would not be happy in either sport, but they would adapt.  And Ontario has found a way to make this work, so there is an example out there.  I think the same could be done for girls and boys rugby as well.

Automatic Eligibility for Some Sports

The next story I hear about someone transferring schools so a competitive advantage can be gained in curling, will be the first.  We have transfer rules that apply to all sports, but really the bulk of concerns are in football, volleyball and basketball.  As a start, exempt all primarily individual sports like cross-country and wrestling from transfer rules and consider extending the exemption to team sports.  If a student changes school in grade 12 and wants to swim, ski, or run – let them – no appeal, no extra process.  Focus the resources on those sports where there are concerns of recruiting and competitive advantage.  With changes in education, more students are going to be more flexible with their learning plans and likely more shifts in schools.  We also know sports are a great way to connect students to a school – getting to play sports in a new school should be encouraged, not always subject to a one-year penalty.  And yes, I get the challenge of sports like football, basketball or volleyball becoming regional all-star teams – but let’s then focus on them and not worry about the cross-country runner or ultimate player. This would get more kids playing – that is a good thing!

Make Fair Play a Thing

One of the arguments I make for school sports in an era of great growth of club sports is that they allow school-values to be applied in ways that we may not see in community sports organizations.   In many sports there are no cuts made – for example I think in almost all schools everyone who comes out for rugby, cross-country, swimming or wrestling is on the team.  So, I will focus on two sports again – and again the big ones – basketball and volleyball.  What if, as some local associations have done, we mandate at younger ages some fair play rules.  Here is how it could work:  in basketball you would need to have at least 10 players on the team and for the first half or three-quarters you would play shifts (this is already done in a number of places).  Then the end of the game could be open substitution.  This would apply some school values – increasing participation, and also make it different from club or community programs which are often win with the best players while the others watch.   If more kids play, they will keep playing.  One of the reasons kids quit is they sit on the bench.  And I am told by some this model would mean we don’t know who the best teams are then.  Wrong.  We would know and maybe even more than ever as it would require you to have 10 players not just 5.  Some coaches do this kind of system already but if we mandated that all grade 8-10 basketball teams had to shift at least 10 kids in the first half, and all volleyball teams had to play at least 12 players one set each, I think our numbers would grow.  And yes, there would need to be some caveats for schools unable to field these numbers of players.

Play for Your Neighbouring School

Here is a controversial one.  If your school does not offer a sport, play for the next closest school that does.   If the goal is more kids playing more sports, why not.  It is often too much to ask all schools to offer all sports.  Just as students are taking courses at multiple schools why not also sports at multiple schools.  This is fraught with challenges, including the worry that some teams would fold to create all-star teams at others and actually this might lead to fewer students playing, but it is worth exploring.  I know the concerns around competitive advantage – but maybe those with students from another school would play up a tier, or be their own tier.  Some sports are dying.  And we want students to have the option to stay at their home school.  This would be challenging, but interesting.  (Not to distract from this one, but I think it is poorly thought-out to not make it easy for middle-school kids to play up for their catchment school – remember the goal is more kids playing more sports.)

Pay Attention to the Cool Cousins

The Olympics get it.  It started with Beach Volleyball, then Rugby  7s and at the next Olympic Games it is 3X3 basketball.  These offshoots of traditional sports have grown immensely in popularity.  And while there is some crossover in each with their traditional cousins,  they also tend to draw some different athletes to the sports.  Rugby is beginning to do some 7s competition between schools, and I think all three of these (and I am sure there are others) are worth considering.  What if beach volleyball and 3×3 basketball each had a weekend in the spring (ideally before other sports have their provincials) where there were High School Provincial Championships.  I do think there is something to wearing a school uniform that is different.  This would help grow these sports, engage some students in an additional sport at school and help keep our school sports relevant.

Think Activities Not Just Sports

I am sure there are others, but let’s use robotics and eSports as the examples for now.  There are inter-school robotics competitions played throughout the fall and winter (the first one was this past weekend).  These are schools competing with each other and winners being recognized with awards and getting the chance to advance to further competition.  This sounds a lot like what we are doing in sports.  And I think eSports is fascinating.  There will be eSports teams in our schools within the next couple years (there may be already).  We are already seeing them in the United States. So where should they fall for regulation and coordination.  They could go on their own, or we could broaden the tent of “Sport” to “Activities”.  I know this is a huge shift but there are probably other competitive activities between schools that could be included.

Hold the Community Accountable

If you have been involved with school and community sports long enough, you have probably come across the softball coach who says she wants multi-sport athletes but then says if you play school volleyball in the fall and don’t come to off-season training you won’t be eligible for the rep team next spring.  Or maybe the soccer coach who also thinks that students should play a range of sports, but won’t allow his players to play school soccer because they might get hurt.  I am not exactly sure how to hold these people accountable.  But, for example, what if schools and communities gave preferential gym and filed rental rates not based on one’s profit or non-profit status, but on their commitment to encouraging students to play multi-sports including any school sports they want to play.  This is large conversation – and an entire future post around the hypocrisy of many in the “we want multi sport athlete” community.  It is silly that students cannot play school sports – largely between 3-5 PM because of rules set by community programs.

Conclusions

So, there is the list.  Seven ideas to challenge thinking around school sports.  And yes, with just a couple hundred words on each, they are at the 30,000 foot level, and easy to poke holes in without more detail.  And also true, they all require more scrutiny.  So, which ones resonate with you?  What else would you suggest? I intentionally left off ideas with a big financial burden – I think no matter any of our personal feelings, there is no huge cash infusion coming for school sports.   If we can agree on a collective goal of more young people playing school sports, more schools fielding more teams, and more teachers and community adults guiding our teams – what could we do?

 

Read Full Post »