Num­bers strong in SDSSAA sports

For one things, there ap­pears to be a mi­nor resur­gence in midget sports

The Sudbury Star - - SPORTS - Dave Makela is the ath­letic ad­min­is­tra­tor for the Sud­bury District Sec­ondary Schools’ Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion. His col­umn ap­pears weekly dur­ing the high school sports sea­son.

I think if you had to sum up the start of the 2017-18 school sport sea­son in a catch­phrase, it would be “top drawer.”

A quick check on the usual in­di­ca­tors of SDSSAA health seem to be trend­ing in the right di­rec­tion. Par­tic­i­pa­tion is up, team with­drawals are down, the num­ber of game changes are down and all sports seem to be hold­ing their own with min­i­mal hic­cups so far.

Touch wood (sorry if this per­pet­u­ates sports su­per­sti­tion).

A to­tal of 117 fall sport teams were re­ported last year, 122 to this point this year. Team sport with­drawals hit a sin­gle-sea­son high last year, with seven teams clos­ing shop af­ter ini­tially com­mit­ting to par­tic­i­pate, while that num­ber is down to two this fall sea­son. Two too many, some would say, but un­doubt­edly a huge im­prove­ment nonethe­less.

One of the sur­pris­ing twists to this fall sport sea­son ap­pears to be a mi­nor resur­gence in midget sports. With­out a league since 2014, midget girls bas­ket­ball is back on this fall, al­beit with a min­i­mum num­ber of teams, namely Lo-Ellen, Cham­plain, Chelms­ford and St. Charles. Very few ar­eas in the prov­ince, re­gard­less of their size, con­test sports at the midget level.

And while the midget sport re­vival might not come as a huge sur­prise for Lo-Ellen, reg­is­ter­ing in ex­cess of 200 Grade 9s in each of the past two years, or for St. Charles, one of the largest schools in the SDSSAA sys­tem, it’s a bit of a pleas­ant eye­brow raiser for Cham­plain and Chelms­ford, who have strug­gled to main­tain full pro­grams in re­cent years. Re­gard­less, more midgets al­most al­ways trans­lates into more ju­niors and se­niors, paving the way for a bright fu­ture.

Even with in­creased par­tic­i­pa­tion, the as­so­ci­a­tion con­tin­ues to strug­gle with what can best be de­scribed as the po­lar­iza­tion of mem­ber school pro­grams. Sim­ply put, some pro­grams op­er­ate at an OFSAA-com­pet­i­tive level, oth­ers not so much. For some sports, this has in the past and prob­a­bly will in the fu­ture lead to dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­bers of teams com­mit­ting to com­pet­i­tive ver­sus recre­ational di­vi­sions. With the goal be­ing to pro­vide a re­ward­ing and ed­u­ca­tional sport ex­pe­ri­ence to all those in­volved, this dis­par­ity in the rel­a­tive size of leagues is trou­ble­some. And, for what­ever rea­son, this seems to be more preva­lent in girls team sports than in boys.

An­other rel­a­tively new chal­lenge the as­so­ci­a­tion faces has to do with short­age of school bus driv­ers. Bus com­pa­nies are in­creas­ingly hav­ing to turn down char­ter re­quests to trans­port stu­dent-ath­letes to in­ter­school games, par­tic­u­larly if they are sched­uled dur­ing the school day. In most cases, th­ese game times are out­side of a con­vener’s con­trol so they may in­creas­ingly find them­selves between the prover­bial rock and hard place to squeeze in league games.

With fall sport num­bers in the books, con­ven­ers are now col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion on win­ter sports such as wrestling, boys and girls hockey, swim­ming and curl­ing. Boys bas­ket­ball, girls vol­ley­ball, alpine and Nordic ski­ing will then soon fol­low.

Here’s hop­ing the pos­i­tive trends will con­tinue.

- Reg­u­lar-sea­son ac­tion in girls bas­ket­ball, boys vol­ley­ball, boys ju­nior and girls flag foot­ball con­tin­ues

- Swim­ming coaches gather Mon­day, 4 p.m. at Lockerby to dis­cuss plans for the sea­son

- Boys hockey ex­hi­bi­tion play con­tin­ues with games Mon­day (7 p.m. at Carmichael) and Thurs­day (6:30 p.m. at Coun­try­side)

- Boys baseball semi­fi­nals go Tues­day, fol­lowed by con­so­la­tion and fi­nals on Thurs­day, both dou­ble­head­ers at Terry Fox start­ing at 3:30 p.m.

- Se­nior boys foot­ball con­tests its quar­ter-fi­nals on Tues­day at James Jerome, start­ing at 5 p.m.

- SDSSAA cross-coun­try run­ning cham­pi­onships go Wed­nes­day, 1 p.m. at Kivi Park

- SDSSAA wrestling coaches gather Wed­nes­day, 3:30 p.m. at Lasalle to dis­cuss plans for the sea­son.

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