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Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Nov. 7, 2019 — An educational windfall, and an opportunity

Yesterday, an educational proposal worth some $2.2 billion was unveiled, promising curriculum changes, and new school and infrastructure construction for the State of Maryland.

The announcement follows on the funding plan assembled by the Kirwan Commission, a blue-ribbon panel of experts. Using casino and money from an educational trust fund, the plans would expand pre-K, increase salaries, implement advanced curriculum, target funding towards underperforming schools, and add a mechanism for accountability.

Education, it seems, will be on the mind of many Maryland legislators during the 2020 legislative session, which occurs between the first week of January and the first week of April.

And, I think, there is an opportunity here to rectify an imbalance — actually, several of them.

In field hockey and lacrosse, the regular season in the state of Maryland is just 12 games, the shortest mandated regular seasons in the nation for these two sports.

But change is slow and frustrating in The Free State. To make any sort of substantive change requires an act of the state legislature, not a rule passed by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, since the MPSSAA is part of the Maryland Department of Education.

I did an interview back in 2000 with Lil Shelton, the head field hockey coach at Severna Park (Md.), who expressed frustration with the way that scholastic sports were run in the state. It had taken a lot of her social capital to get a friend of hers to introduce a resolution allowing field hockey (and other sports) to add an in-season tournament of up to two games to the schedule.

But I’m looking to do more. I’m drafting an actual legislative bill, with the working title the Schedule Equity Act (or SEA) of 2020.

What it would do is direct the MPSSAA to adopt schedule lengths dependent upon the average of the four surrounding U.S. states — Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia. We would have included the District of Columbia, but the DCIAA has a much smaller athletics footprint (except for football and basketball), and their numbers might affect the averages.

So, here’s a listing of sports, the length of season for the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, and the average for the four surrounding states (three in the case of field hockey and lacrosse, because neither sport is officially sanctioned by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission):

SPORT MPSSAA AVG
Field hockey 12 16.3
Football 10 10
Cross Country 10 14.25
Soccer 12 17.75
Volleyball 15 19.75
Basketball 20 21.5
Swimming 12 14.75
Indoor Track 10 12.3
Wrestling 14 17.5
Baseball 18 22.5
Softball 18 22.5
Golf 12 15.75
Tennis 18 17.75
Outdoor track 10 14.5
Lacrosse 12 15.6

Only one sport remains constant across all five juristictions: football, as all play a 10-game regular season.

There are some interesting variations in other athletic endeavors. West Virginia boosts the games-played average in baseball and softball because they have a 32-game regular season in comparison to the 18 in Maryland and Delaware.

Virginia drags down the average in both indoor and outdoor track, with just 10 dual meets allowed in their regular season — presumably, the work gets done in the VHSL during District, Regional, and State all-comers meets.

Our scenario, if enacted, would direct all but two athletic activities in the MPSSAA’s purview — football and tennis — to increase their regular-season schedules. These increases would be at least two games per sport, and as many as six for soccer.

The argument about why scholastic sports team schedules should expand is as simple as equality. With Maryland being such a small state, there could be a danger of athletic flight, with families moving over state lines in order to give their children a better environment for playing the sport they love at their school.

But there’s also another reason. Players and coaches in Maryland have the same 12 weeks together as a team as other teams in neighboring states. There should be more games in Maryland so that players aren’t training day after day late in the season with little to do unless you’re a playoff team.

Having an extra two to four games in a season also won’t cost schools all that much money, since the uniforms, sticks, trainers, and playing fields are already paid for. And with more than $2.2 billion coming in from casino and other funding, opportunities should be opened for existing sports teams.

Over the course of months, I’ll try to bring you some progress reports as to how this bill goes through the process. I’ll try to take you into the smoky backrooms as legislators talk up this bill. Heck, if this gets enough popular support (i.e., goes viral), perhaps your Founder might have to register as a lobbyist.

And wouldn’t that be something?

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