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Nov. 17, 2021 — A first-in-the-nation postseason feature ends this week, it seems

In the most recent meeting of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, the first reading of a bill to eliminate the postseason Tournament of Champions was done and entered into the records.

The Tournament of Champions is a separate postseason competition which takes the state titleholders from each current group, and pits them together in one competition for an ultimate winner, kind of like a trophy dash at your local short track.

The reasons for the cessation of the Tournament of Champions, for me, do not rate for reasons of rational thought.

One reason, which is actually on the record, is to prevent those teams in the Tournament of Champions from feeling bad for losing in the course of its playing.

Said NJSIAA chief operating officer Tony Maselli.,“Spreading the positives of a group state championship is where we should go.”

In other words, the only reason to not have these single eliminations contests is to feel good.

Another reason cited by the NJSIAA is the shortening of sports seasons. Under new proposals, scholastic sports teams in New Jersey are limited to just 24 regular-season games, and the calendar shoves the end of the winter season to early March rather than the tail end of March.

These two reasons, as well as a number of other checks on out-of-state competition and some draconian rules from 20 years ago making transfers sit out large chunks of the athletic calendar in every sport they play, are meant to curb excesses in one sport: basketball.

Now, I understand that New Jersey doesn’t want to allow what has happened in Nevada with Finlay Prep or in Ohio with Bishop Sycamore — to have sports-agent types, shoe companies, or hangers-on creating sports entities outside of the normal realm of scholastic sports.

The problem is, it’s already happening. Remember how the Development Academy, that U.S. Soccer program that had adherents in many states, siphoning off talent from the schools, and playing 11 months out of the year, collapsed a year ago? There are still privately-run academy leagues such as the Elite Club National League and the MLS Academy League.

And in the case of field hockey, you’re seeing aggressive moves on the part of some clubs to assemble top coaching talent and put their clubs into palatial facilities that can operate year-round.

A number of people I know believe that there will be a nationwide club league for field hockey within five to 10 years.

Question is, does the phalanx of rulesmakers realize that over-regulation of youth sports could be the precipitating action in all this?

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