Thursday, December 13, 2007

South Dakota reflects on season changes

The Michigan High School Athletic Association was forced to switch six sports to their traditional seasons this year. The case, which we wrote about frequently, created a level of discord and acrimony that was a little bit shocking. Given how recent the decision was, I assume there is still a fair amount of bitterness in Michigan. And how well the transition proceeds may depend on the efforts of people (like athletic directors) who were not in favor of the switches.

But if South Dakota is any kind of indicator, it will not be all bad as opponents have proclaimed. The Argus Leader out of Sioux Falls has taken a look back at the past five years since the state was compelled, by the threat of a Title IX lawsuit, to switch basketball and volleyball. People in South Dakota saw the writing on the wall (the other states that had lost similar cases) and opted to switch the seasons in 2002-2003.

The benefits have been great for volleyball which has seen tremendous growth in interest. More girls are coming out for the sport and this has lead to better competition statewide. Fan interest has also increased. About 5,000 spectators showed up to the state tournament this year.

What many schools are still dealing with though is scheduling. Gym space is limited which means scheduling becomes a nightmare for athletic administrators. It is likely Michigan will experience the same problems. It just seems par for the course, though. What public school has plenty of time and space for all its activities from sports, to classes, to music and drama programs? Everyone in public education is doing a lot of improvising these days. I hope people in Michigan look at what has happened in South Dakota and see the possibilities.