The fall high school sports season got off to a great start last week. There were boys soccer tournaments, volleyball events and cross country invitationals. Friday night had some exciting football games.
But I’m left with one question after opening week: Just what are we doing playing high school games two weeks before school starts?
By the time student-athletes across the area enter classrooms Monday, some high school teams will have completed 20-25 percent of their regular-season schedules.
Leesville Road, for example, has five soccer matches before players attend classes. West Johnston’s volleyball team will play seven matches before school opens. Cleveland plays a third of its regular season girls tennis season before the first roll is taken.
Most area football teams will play two of their 10 or 11-games before hearing the principal’s opening announcements.
The N.C. High School Athletic Association sets the start dates of each season and tries to get each season completed in a timely manner and still finish the spring sports season before graduation. To do that and allow a bit of time between most schools’ fall-to-winter and winter-to-spring sports transition, the NCHSAA has let the fall season creep earlier and earlier.
This year, school doesn’t begin until Aug. 27 for schools on traditional calendars. (Southeast Raleigh and other year-round high schools in Wake County opened on July 30.)
It’s as late as the school year will start under a law the N.C. Legislature passed a few years ago, which mandates school can start no earlier than Aug. 25. Practices begin on the Monday of the first week in August (this year July 30).
“We didn’t move our starting dates up, but every thing is as early as it possibly could be this year,” said Rick Strunk, an NCHSAA assistant commissioner. “The next year calendar is different.”
Before the Aug. 25 mandate came around, the school year started in mid-August, nearly directly in line with the start of high school sports.
Although the crowds at games I attended were bigger than I thought they would be, something still felt really odd about playing a soccer tournament so early that teachers hadn’t started work days yet.
Under the current scheduling, competitive sports are really not a high school-associated activity for about 25 percent of the fall season. And isn’t that what we’re after – the best, most complete school experience for kids?
Tim Stevens contributed to this story.
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