ELKHART — Girls and boys basketball will no longer clash at the end of the season - however, the end of the girls volleyball season and beginning of the girls basketball season will now overlap.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association board voted May 6 to move the girls basketball season up one week, which allows the girls state finals to be played on a separate weekend than the boys basketball sectional finals.
However, that one-week shift creates a new issue with the volleyball season. With the change, the first week of girls basketball practice would carry over into the state volleyball tournament.
As it stands, a girls basketball player would have to participate in five practices before being allowed to play in games.
The reaction to the change has been split among area volleyball coaches. Some are annoyed their players who participate in both sports will be affected, while others rationalize the change was the best option the IHSAA had.
Jacquie Rost, Elkhart Memorial athletic director and head volleyball coach, agrees with the latter. With the overlap between the boys and girls basketball tournaments, she said, the schedule move “will impact the least amount of girls.”
“The alternatives that were discussed would have had a much more negative impact on the athletic departments as a whole,” she said. “There was talked about moving the volleyball season back a week. They talked about moving all fall sports back a week. The dialogue was, ’Why would we affect so many programs because of a problem girls basketball is experiencing?’ Not to minimize their problem, but more people felt that this solution would make the most sense.”
Rost alluded to the boys basketball and football seasons, which also face overlap. Schools that make deep runs in the state football tournament, like Concord did last year, are tasked with altering their basketball schedules accordingly.
“Looking at what’s happened with football and boys basketball, I think other schools, other opponents, are accommodating to that issue,” she said.
But what about smaller schools with smaller pools of athletic talent to draw from? Memorial’s enrollment is 1,827, but a school like Elkhart Christian only has 153 students.
ECA head volleyball coach Richelle Viront said she understands the dilemma the IHSAA faced but doesn’t agree with the solution. Several girls on her team are two- and even three-sport athletes. Three play both basketball and volleyball.
As a former three-sport high school athlete herself, Viront said that one week off between fall and winter sports was a crucial resting period.
“The top athletes at the school will be at the state finals,” she said. “I worry that it will start to make kids maybe focus even more on one sport and just be done with (playing) two sports, especially the high-level athletes who are walking right from the state tournament and into basketball practice the next day.”
Instead, Viront proposed to shorten the girls basketball season by a week.
“It’s so long anyway,” she said. “We have from August to October for volleyball, and we play 30-something matches.”
Westview volleyball coach Heidi Brohm looks at the overlap from a mentality standpoint. What takes precedence? The end of volleyball or the beginning of basketball?
"The only concern that I would have would be how it would affect the mentality of the girls, the focus,“ she said. ”You have multi-sport athletes at smaller schools. That would be a big factor and just keeping them focused on making a run in the post season.“
Brohm also brought up the issue of gym space and practice availability.
“I know the (teams in the) post-season gets choice of what gym or court they have,” she said. “Some smaller schools might not have the availability.”
According to the Indianapolis Star, IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox addressed several basketball coaches’ concerns by pointing out that 200 of 400 volleyball teams would be eliminated by the Tuesday of sectional week, and just 64 would still be in contention by the end of the week.
Like Rost, Cox also likened the situation to the current boys basketball-football overlap.
“For 35 years, member schools have successfully dealt with this conflict and from my personal perspective, I do not believe this conflict has hindered the development or quality of boys’ basketball play in our state for one moment,” Cox said.