Posted September 20, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Keeler: VHSL's changes sideline districts

Tommy Keeler

By Tommy Keeler Jr. - tkeeler@nvdaily.com

The end of an era is upon us.

The fall high school sports season is in full swing, and with it most teams have begun district play. Some, like golf, are already playing their district tournaments. The words district and tournament used to go in hand-in-hand. However, soon they may be as extinct as dinosaurs.

The Virginia High School League is very close to making the six-classification system a finality; it was approved by the VHSL executive committee Wednesday, and will go to the group board meetings on Oct. 19. Unless 2/3 of the schools in attendance vote to turn it down, it will then be official.

There's probably as much chance for me to win the lottery, as there is for the six classification system to not happen. And I don't play the lottery.

With the new classification system, districts will no longer hold the value they once did. Conferences will be the new districts, kind of like 40 is the new 20 (Trust me, it is).

Districts will still be around and teams will still play in their districts throughout the regular season, but they won't necessarily be playing the same teams that are in their conference.

District regular-season games will be more like a warm-up for the postseason, and a way to keep from traveling too far away during the regular season. They will still be important, as far as helping decide seedings for conference play and pride. However, that's just not the same, and I would have to think it may be tougher for athletes to get motivated. Now, most athletes can't wait to start district play and beat their district rivals for the title.
Without that added region berth on the line, teams may have to try harder to become motivated in district play.

Will the new classification system hurt rivalries? For the most part I don't think it will hurt the main ones. But if two teams are in the same district, but are not in the same conference, I would think that could hurt the rivalry to some extent.

It will be up to each district to decide if they want to have a tournament in each sport. It's very possible that many will choose not to, which means this year may be the last time district tournaments are held in the area for a number of years.

Even if the area districts choose to have district tournaments, they won't mean quite as much. Every team makes it into the conference tournaments, and in most sports the top two teams from each conference would advance to regionals.

I'm not saying this is a bad thing. I like having six classifications, and it certainly will spice things up. Change can be a great thing.

Still, I can't help but feel a little saddened that districts won't mean as much as they used to.

Most of the teams in the districts are still schools that are close to each other, and have rivalries with each other. So, there will still be a lot of pride on the line when a team wins a district regular season title, although I'm not sure if they will still give out trophies.

Now, when you become a district regular-season champ you get the automatic region berth and it simply makes it a little more meaningful. Starting next year that won't be the case.

I like the idea of having conferences, I just wish there was a way it could be worked out where all the teams in a conference were closer together in proximity. Then they could just get rid of districts and everyone could play conference games in the regular season. Maybe at some point they will figure out a way to do that.

For now, we will still have districts and hopefully the athletes will remember how special it is to play against their rivals, even if there isn't a regional berth or a trophy on the line.

For this season, area athletes should be even more motivated. They have the opportunity to win what could be the last district tournaments ever, to be able to do something no team that will follow will ever be able to do.

With everything, time moves on and changes must happen. Hopefully this change will be for the best and the athletes will appreciate their chance to be part of history.

-- Assistant sports editor Tommy Keeler Jr., can be contacted at tkeeler@nvdaily.com

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