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Written by Rod O'Donnell on 30 November 2015.

In the mid-July 2014 issue of Run Ohio, the “Keeping Track” article focused on the challenges that face our sport. Emerging sports and their impact on high school athletic programs were points that were explained.

- The following spring sports are offered for boys at many high schools in the spring: rugby, volleyball, baseball, tennis, lacrosse, and track and field. Several of these have multiple levels, are not recognized by the OHSAA, but are still financially supported by athletic departments. The athletes participating are given varsity letter and other rewards that are offered in varsity sports. There are a limited number of students who choose to compete in athletics in any high school, regardless of its size; therefore, when finding people to field teams, the circle of athletes available is divided, not expanded. Many times, this results in a weakened athletic program.

Since that time, the OHSAA has decided to officially recognize lacrosse and have placed it in the probationary period. Beginning in 2017, the governing body for Ohio High School Athletics explained that certain criteria will have to be met in order for official status to be granted. This includes, along with several other requirements, that a certain number of schools sponsor the sport. If the elevated status were achieved, a state championship would be held, and multiple divisions would be established if the numbers justified it.

In an article that appeared in the June 11, 2015 edition of the Canal Winchester Times, OHSAA Commissioner Dan Ross stated: “The subcommittee did an outstanding job studying lacrosse in Ohio. I know they received tremendous assistance from Paul Balcerzak, Commissioner of the Ohio High School Lacrosse Association.” Ross’s endorsement was best illustrated by the following quote: “Lacrosse is definitely growing in our state at both the youth and high school levels, and it’s exciting when schools want to join our association and also exciting that more students will be able to complement their high school experience with another participation opportunity.”

When the early model for physical activity was established, all students were required to take physical education classes. Those that wanted more structure joined intramural programs, and those students who wanted even more structure and instruction became members of varsity and junior varsity athletic teams. Considering the cutbacks or elimination of physical education programs at many Ohio schools, the pyramid models seems to have been inverted as more sports are added. This places a tremendous burden on athletic department budgets.

In addition to the financial burden, there is also a problem with the number of students available, as pointed out in the “Keeping Track” (2014) article. This can hurt the quality of programs in large schools, but it is a sport killer, especially on the Division III level, many of which have an enrollment of fewer than 100 boys. Several have established co-ed squads in soccer in order to field teams.

Many times the local Boards of Education will approve adding a sport, because the parents make assurances that they will raise the money necessary to fully fund the program. When their sons or daughters graduate, the next group of parents may not be as supportive, but they will still insist on having the sport. Once again the athletic department is responsible for finding a way to finance another sport.

To further illustrate the extent that will be taken to satisfy those who want a certain sport added, note the following example: Several years ago, a public high school added varsity ice hockey, without investigating expenses or facilities. It did not take long for ice hockey to pass football, as the most expensive sport that the school offered. Student-athletes were still required to pay $1,000.00 to participate and had to drive 45 minutes to the nearest facility, with ice time from 10-11 p.m.  Track coaches would be reprimanded by a school board if they presented this scenario on behalf of their athletes.

If the OHSAA is determined to “complement the high school experience,” by adding more sports, then why not add indoor track to its menu? Here are the facts, according to thisweek

1.    107 (boys) and 119 (girls) schools sponsored lacrosse as a club sport in 2015. 82 schools fielded boys’ ice hockey teams.

2.    In the same year, 5,009 (169 boys teams and 160 girls’ teams) student-athletes participated in indoor track.  With outdoor track following this winter sport, there is no additional cost for facilities, coaches, or equipment. Yet the OHSAA will not sanction the sport or even give it emerging sport status.

Another area that should  be addressed by the governing body is the addition of a fourth division in outdoor track before multiple divisions are added in emerging sports. The range of enrollment has both a minimum and maximum number of students; however, the largest discrepancy exists in Division I where the range can be 300-to no top cap of boys or girls. This places the smaller Division I schools at an unfair and distinct disadvantage. Also, when the smaller school  in this division attempt to sponsor the same number of sports as their larger rivals, mediocrity is the result, with some teams unable to field a squad due to limited numbers.

Three key points in this article are 1) The influence and impact that emerging sports are gaining; 2) The financial drain that is caused by adding more and more opportunities; 3) The mediocrity that will exist when the available students are not there to field competitive teams. As track and cross-country coaches, we must be aware of trends that can hurt our sport. Be pro-active before irreversible damage is done.

Yours in track,

Rod O’Donnell

Read more of Rod O’Donnell’s Keeping Track articles on -

Boy's Division II and Division III -

Boy's Division I -



KEEPING TRACK - Football and Track Athletes -  

 The Ohio High School Athletic Association State Cross-Country Championships -

Cross Country -

 Track Faces Challenges that could have adverse effects thus causing severe damage -

Marketing Track & Field -

Student Athlete’s Questions -

The Need to Speak Up -

A new book by John McDonnell -

KEEPING TRACK - From September-October 2013 print RUNOHIO -

Random Thoughts -

Another Division I institution has dropped its men’s track program -

 Ohio University Athletic Department's Worst Decision -

Life Lessons from Cross Country -

Ten Pledges for Cross Country Coaches -

London Olympics -

 Improving as a Coach –

You Only Go Around Once -

Dear Jesse Owens –

West Virginia State Cross Country Championship –

SPIRE Institute -

Why is the OHSAA Treating Cross Country Different than All of the Other Sponsored Sports?

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