The Shifting Landscape in High School Sport
Are sport academies and private schools hurting high school athletics? The variety of answers to that question has a number of coaches, administrators and sport governing bodies within our province and our country taking a hard look at current policies and regulations; some even examining mandates and their own personal philosophies while reacting to a new reality around ‘programs of choice’ within athletics.
A new and ever shifting landscape within high school athletics has the ASAA investigating how we might best embrace sport specific programs while maintaining a mandate of providing the very best athletic programs for all students within our province. The challenge is in providing fair, equitable and safe programs where excellence and opportunities are not being compromised but rather enhanced for each individual student athlete. Sport specific programs by their very nature are going to collide head on with a number of current policies and regulations creating situations where student athletes become athletically ineligible for ASAA competitions. Recruitment for athletic reasons, designated seasons of play, two team or two transfer policies are but a few examples where a student’s athletic eligibility is placed in jeopardy. Along with other provincial sport governing bodies the ASAA is working hard to address the increasing number of families that need more information and guidance when making their decisions.
We are working closely with our colleagues at the Alberta Basketball Association to provide a consistent and thorough check list for families to consider when making decisions regarding what might potentially be the best experience for their child. As coaches, sport or school administrators and student advocates we all have a role to play in assisting families in becoming as informed as possible. Parents often will not know what to ask and will need assistance in making connections with provincial or national sport governing bodies. A first call might be to the staff at the ASAA who can provide the necessary contact information. Families will need to understand current policies and regulations as well as possible consequences or their decisions. All schools and programs being considered need to meet high standards. A quality program will have no problem providing documented examples of their success while providing school policies and regulations. Alumni or current students are often made available to discuss accommodations, student support services and even to give a first-hand account into the every day life of a student.
In our province there are many examples of wonderful schools, both public and private, that provide exceptional educational experiences. A few academies and private schools within our province do have the ability to provide specialized training environments and facilities while providing students with the advantage of alternative scheduling and a wide range of resources. In addition to these opportunities a number of families are exploring opportunities in a growing number of schools and programs across the country and even internationally. This trend is creating a very competitive environment, one where student recruitment is becoming a very important and necessary part of a private school’s program. Some athletes undoubtedly will benefit from becoming involved in a specialized program, but it has unfortunately now become a ‘buyers beware’ scenario. More of these schools, for a variety of reasons, are struggling to meet acceptable educational standards and are not able to provide students with the enhanced athletic experience nor the anticipated exposure as had been advertised. This new reality has a number of families questioning their decisions. Unfortunately,a student athlete who is leaving a specialized environment with the hope of returning to their previous school or another member school are met with the realization that they are athletically ineligible under our current policies and regulations. This is a disturbing trend and one that has created various challenges for our association and for the families involved as they try to navigate the mine fields within the world of athletic eligibility. The governance challenges we face on a day to day basis in responding to this new trend are often very complex and many layered.
While I do believe these issues can be resolved it is going to take some time as we work collaboratively with our partners through sport in designing new policy and a preferred future. We must learn from our American neighbours to the south who admittedly were not proactive nor intentional in their response and who have reported having several of their high school athletic programs and leagues decimated by club and sport academies. So many athletic opportunities being lost for countless high school students.
The ASAA is committed to providing the very best programs and experiences for all of our student athletes and schools. We will continue to explore how we might best include sport academies and private school’s programs. We are a dynamic and innovative association and we are looking forward to hearing from all of you as we continue to seek input from our schools and leaders through your zone representatives.
-TIM MAIN, Current ASAA Member at Larger and a Past President of the ASAA
ASAA Spring 2019 Newsletter