While the IHSAA proposal to give the girls basketball teams a postseason all their own promotes Title IX advantages, the disadvantage could come at the cost of another girls sport.
As reported in The Times last week, the IHSAA is considering a proposal that would eliminate the overlap that comes at the end of the girls basketball playoffs and the start of the boys sectional. As it stands now, the girls state championship is played on the same weekend as the boys sectional championships.
Woe to the school with multiple successful teams.
To eliminate that crossover, and hopefully put the girls tournament finale back in Indianapolis, the proposal would move the start of the girls season up a week, and eliminate one week from the girls volleyball season.
Volleyball teams still would be allowed to schedule 25 matches and two tournaments, meaning they'll play the same number of games with one less week on the calendar.
"In volleyball, we have so many matches already, getting rid of one week would make it that much worse," said Luke Starkey, the former volleyball coach at Merrillville who is also an assistant on the girls basketball team. "The quality of play would suffer because you would not have a chance to practice. As it is, usually you're playing three matches per week with a tournament on Saturday. There's not a chance to work, not only on fundamentals with younger teams, but on strategy with the older teams. With a shorter season, I would also worry about kids getting healthy, because there will always be injuries."
On the calendar now, the IHSAA sectional games end the Saturday before the girls basketball season begins workout. If a team advances past the sectional, players on both teams will start to miss basketball practices.
That's not typically a problem at Class 4A schools, where there are fewer players on both rosters. But, at Class 2A Bishop Noll, several players from the runner-up volleyball team missed the first basketball game of the season because they had to put in 10 practices for basketball.
"There's a concern because of the kid who doesn't play three sports," Noll coach Dave Rodriguez said. "If the only thing they do for their school is play volleyball, it's a pretty compact schedule as it is to get those matches in.
"The kid that doesn't go into the next sport, you're shortchanging them, because that's their opportunity to represent their school."
Not all volleyball coaches are in agreement that a shorter season could be a detriment to their players.
"I feel like the girls, about a week before we start sectionals, they're ready for the playoffs," Munster coach Tracy Summers said. "I'm all for it. We do stuff all summer, we do stuff all spring, if we lose a week in the regular season, that doesn't hurt us that much."
Summers also noted that younger varsity players who elect to play club volleyball would benefit from a week less to the regular season.
"You have to wait until your high school season is over to start club," Summers said. "Sometimes, what you see with U16 and U15 teams is that the tryouts are before the varsity season ends. If you are a young player on a varsity team, you have to hope your club coach has seen you during the regular season to put you in a slot. It would be nice for those girls, too, to be able to rest or make their club tryouts."
That the benefit to basketball comes at the cost of volleyball is disappointing. There should be other alternatives. Why the move has to come at the expense of another sport is baffling.
The crossover affects smaller teams, for the most part. Why schools can't share athletes is beyond me. Boys basketball is affected by the football season, so why isn't the consideration to simply start the boys hoops season a week later, instead of the girls season a week earlier? Football teams would be happy, volleyball teams would be happy.
Now the crossover from basketball to baseball would be the next sports affected.