WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – The IHSAA recently approved to move the girls basketball season up a week. That rule goes into effect on July 1, 2015.
As a result, the beginning of girls basketball practice will be the same week as volleyball sectionals. A schedule change that has garnered mixed reviews.
“When your athletics directors and your constituents are telling the members of the IHSAA that we don’t want to go down this path and then you continue to do that, then that is a concern as coaches of girls sports and athletics. I’m not looking at this just as a girls basketball perspective, I’m looking at this as girls sports in general. We think it’s imperative that the IHSAA makes this right,” said Benton Central girls basketball coach David Baxter.
West Lafayette volleyball coach Chad Marshall is concerned that this decision will lead to more athletes choosing one sport over the other.
“Some of these kids that may fear not making a certain basketball team because they are absent from the tryout may choose to not play volleyball, and we have to make sure that they are comfortable. But once kids go home and talk to mom and dad, there is confusion and I think this issue just furthers the confusion,” said Marshall.
Harrison girls basketball coach Jake Rettig understands the importance of getting the state finals back to Indianapolis, but he doesn’t believe it’s worth overlapping two seasons.
“I definitely would like to see the state finals back in Indianapolis. I know a couple of years ago when Jeffersonville was in the state finals and it was in Fort Wayne, that is a long drive and it’s hard to get your fans up to those types of games. I feel that it affects so little teams, that I just wish there was some other way that we could not overlap the seasons,” said Rettig.
An overlap of two seasons that Central Catholic volleyball coach Brad McCarter doesn’t believe honors the most important people involved, the athletes.
“Lets honor the kids, lets give the kids the best chance and the best opportunity to enjoy themselves. Not everyone makes it to a state final and it’s something to cherish and relish. Lets not penalize somebody for trying to make one person happy,” said McCarter.
IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox defended the decision by answering the four major concerns that coaches have had thus far.
1. Players deciding to specialize in one sport over another
“Student athletes make these decisions in concert with their parents every year across the entire state. I have difficulty believing that one week of overlapping practices could be the deciding factor if a girl will attempt to make themselves a member of the girls’ basketball team or not,” said Cox. “I sense that there are more extenuating circumstances such as pressure from parents and club coaches that would sway a student away from being a multiple sport athlete.”
2. The decision being made was revenue driven
“If revenue increases because of this change, that is fine, but it was not even considered when writing the proposals. If providing a state championship experience for girls’ basketball that is unencumbered by the conflict of the boys’ basketball sectional championships results in more revenue at the girls’ state finals, then it is nothing more than a by-product,” said Cox.
3. Not having the student-athletes best interest in mind
“The decision was made in the best interest of all girls basketball playing students. While a week of conflict for some students may present challenges, an overall hope is to bring enthusiasm and energy back to a sport that consistently is losing interest and media attention,” said Cox.
4. There must be a better way to fix this problem
“A proposal was presented to member school athletic administrators and principals last fall that would have moved multiple fall sports one week earlier to allow for the girls’ basketball practice season to begin earlier without additional conflict with volleyball or any other fall sport for girls,” said Cox. “This proposal was overwhelmingly denounced as this would have taken another week away from students and their families in the summer and caused athletic administrators and coaches to begin one week earlier outside their existing contracts. The leadership of the volleyball coaches was approached about a potential shortening of their season which again was met with high discourse.”
Cox goes on to say, “Quite honestly, the decision to move the girls basketball season one week earlier was to attempt to put the girls state finals in the spotlight. Our good faith effort to interject enthusiasm in the sport and stem the declining numbers of girls playing the sport has been applauded by administrators statewide. I have no doubt that in some instances, there will be adjustments that need to be made by girls’ basketball coaches and that those alterations may be difficult. When I look at the fact that 10,080 girls played basketball at the high school level in 2006-07 and last year’s reporting showed that number at 8,042, something substantial needs to be done. This is occurring while every IHSAA sanctioned sport is gaining in participants annually.”