Before I go too deep into this column, I want to point out that I thought really long and hard before I decided to write it. The subject has been a sticky one for a while and I have managed to steer clear of it until now.
The subject of classification in high school sports is one that has been brought up on many occasions, especially in our area considering the number of small schools we have here in the Tri-County.
I haven’t always been a big fan of the idea, but at the same time, I’ve really never been dead-set against it either. The past week has put a few thoughts in my head regarding the subject.
First of all, keep in mind I have nothing to gain no matter how the KHSAA chooses to conduct business. Whether a small school or a large school wins a district, region or state title has no bearing on me. I get paid the same amount to cover a Class A school as I do to cover a 6A school.
The issue of fairness is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about classification. If football teams are classified and play each other accordingly, why would it not be appropriate for other high school sports?
Of course, I know all too well that football and soccer teams can only field 11 players at a time, baseball teams field nine players at a time, volleyball teams can only put six kids on the floor, basketball teams use their best five players. I’ve had enough cliché quotes pointing those numbers out over the course of my writing career.
But, I do feel like when a school has a larger talent pool to pull from there is an obvious advantage to the larger school. When you think about schools like the one Corbin faced in the state soccer quarterfinals Saturday in the St. Xavier Tigers, you have to take a long look. St. X was ranked first in the state and sixth in the nation.
What about South Laurel’s opponent in the girls’ state tournament? Notre Dame was also rated first in the state going into Saturday’s match.
The Corbin Lady Redhounds went up against the state’s sixth rated team in Lone Oak in the state volleyball tournament Friday, though they were easily dispatched the next day by top-ranked Assumption.
Sure they are well coached and have a lot of talent, but I’d like to know how many of those players have been in that program for more than a year or two. Being in such a large area, it’s almost a given that players are added and lost based on a lot of circumstances like new jobs, lost jobs and people just moving into the area.
I’ll be the first to admit that when a new kid moves into town around here, coaches are most likely rubber necking to see how tall little Johnny is as his folks unload the moving fan. The difference in Corbin and Louisville is that there aren’t enough jobs to go around here in the first place, so you don’t have new families moving in that often, which means there aren’t a lot of fresh faces from year to year.
Of course you can argue that if you start teaching and preaching fundamentals at a younger age that the players will be better when they get to the high school level, but that’s only true to a point. When you consider the resources available in larger cities, those teams have a leg up on the smaller schools.
For example, and I can’t put an exact number on it, but you can bet there are several indoor facilities in places like Louisville, Lexington and even northern Kentucky where high school soccer players can play year-round with what they call a club team.
I know there has been some club volleyball played in our area and if you watch the teams and players, a lot of times you can point out the kids who have been involved just by comparing the talent levels.
There’s always AAU basketball for teams in the summer, but I’m sure it’s rare for an entire team to take part in summer basketball. A lot of times it comes down to economics because it can cost a pretty penny to take part in most of these summer events.
The one area I can speak on when it comes to improving via summer leagues or travel teams is baseball and softball. Locally, we have an abundance of both quality coaches and talent in the lower levels, which is only going to make our high school teams stronger when these children get to that level.
If our area had those travel leagues for every sport and if every athlete had the opportunity to take part, there would be a chance for local schools to eventually catch up with the likes of St. Xavier and Notre Dame in soccer or Assumption on the volleyball court.
Until then, I think the KHSAA needs to look at classification for a few more sports. The reasoning should be no different than what they used to classify football. In the end, it would give more athletes a shot at winning a state title, while also increasing revenue. After all, isn’t this whole organization supposed to benefit student athletes?