Column: Is it really fair?
Published 2:00 pm Tuesday, January 25, 2005
The present buzz in the media has been about the change of seasons in high school sports. The attention has focused upon the change of girls' volleyball and basketball seasons. What has been forgotten was that they are not the only changes.
When the original lawsuit of CFE vs. MHSAA occured in Kalamazoo, the judge also ordered the MHSAA to not only switch the volleyball and basketball, but also develop a plan whereas girls and boys' sports have equal disadvantageous seasons. The MHSAA created three proposals for the state school administrators to vote. The top vote was to also switch tennis and golf seasons. This was the easiest vote since it affected the fewest number of students statewide.
The change of tennis seasons could have devastating effects. The girls' season will move to the spring. When it was in the fall, other sports to choose from were basketball and cross country. Now in the spring, which already is the highest participatory season for girls, the choices are soccer, softball and track &field. Almost two and a half times more girls participate in the spring than fall. The girls will also have to wait 17 months from the time they last played a tennis match until the time they get to start their next season. This could cause losing interest in the sport and joining another, or losing their skill level. The boys' season will move to the fall, the highest boys' participatory season, competing against football, soccer and cross country. SOme coaches will have to make choices as to which sport to coach.
A survey of the Lakeland Conference showed that 30-60 percent of current men's tennis teams also compose of athletes who play soccer. The survey also showed that many tennis teams were composed of football players and cross country runners. When these sports are lumped together, something will have to give. For especially the smaller schools in the state, some tennis programs will be depleted. The same consequences will appear as many of the girls' tennis players come from softball and soccer programs, and they will also lose significant numbers. The girls will get an opportunity for those who play basketball to join, but there are also so many other choices in the spring. The boys could pick up some baseball players, but again, the fall has the most choices. One thing is certain, it will be a rough transition with the quality of the sport in question.
Tennis currently ranks second of all sports in increased participation in America the past five years. It is a shame in the state of Michigan that a lawsuit involving another issue has dragged tennis along with it. Tennis appears to be the 'sacrificial lamb' to keep all parties apeased in the lawsuit. Since it is a minor sport, the ramifications seem to be inconsequential to many. What started out as a mission by two parents to aid their daughters obtaining college scholarships for volleyball has turned into a debacle, negatively affecting so many student athletes, coaches and fans in a variety of sports, especially tennis!