By Tommy Keeler Jr.
There will be a lot of changes next year with the Virginia High School League switching to a six-classification system. One of the biggest changes will be the end of many district tournaments throughout the state. The Northwestern and Shenandoah Districts are two of the districts that have decided not to have a district tournament.
"With the way the VHSL calendar is, everybody is packed, it gives us a little breathing room," Stonewall Jackson athletic director Todd Fannin said. "You hate to see them go. A lot of our district tournaments have been really successful. Some of the places we've held tournaments, like basketball being held at EMU, most kids don't get to play in venues like that."
The Bull Run District will be the only district in the area that will still have district tournaments.
Conference tournaments will basically take the place of district tournaments next year. Every team will qualify for conference tournaments, but each school will still play in a district next year. The VHSL has said that it is up to each district to decide if they want to have a district tournament or not, but district tournaments have no bearing on seeding for conference tournaments. The only change in the area districts next year will be Warren County moving from the Evergreen to the Bull Run.
Central athletic director Kenny Rinker said he's happy with the decision the Bull Run District made to keep district tournaments.
"I think advantage-wise, if there is an advantage, it's that our kids aren't dormant for a week," Rinker said.
Skyline athletic director Bill Cupp said a big reason the Northwestern District decided to stop having tournaments was the issue of scheduling.
"To have the district tournament, it just adds a whole other week on to the schedule," Cupp said. "If you play a 22-game schedule and then you're trying to squeeze another three games, another week in there, it would have been tough to do.
"When I looked at getting [Bull Run teams] Warren County, Central and Clarke County on the schedule -- their schedule was very constricted. We're playing Warren County on a Saturday night [in basketball]. The schedule is already so tight, and playing district tournaments would just make things tighter."
Cupp said another factor was the fact that Sherando, Millbrook and James Wood are also in the same conference next year, so they didn't want the possibility of playing each other in a district tournament and then turning around and playing again in a conference tournament.
Both the Shenandoah and Northwestern districts will crown regular-season champions, just like they always have.
Rinker said if things get backed up due to weather, the Bull Run would just cancel the district tournaments.
At the end of the day, Rinker said it's about the kids.
"It doesn't count toward your conference standings or anything of that nature, but it's about the kids. That's why we're here," Rinkler said. "We're going to try to play every game we can. That's just a couple games there during that week, maybe two or three, depending on how far you go, just to keep you sharp and get ready for what's coming up the week after.
"This is about the kids. Kids would rather play than practice."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org