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On Monday April 2 nd , the governing body of Massachusetts high school athletics, the MIAA will be publishing a new set of guidelines that promises to create a more even playing field. It will relax its regulations on “out of season contact” by coaches, attempt to give balance by insuring all schools will equally provide both “Type 1” and “Type 2” sports and create a fourth sport season – “summer sports”.
There will no longer be an “out of season” qualification. The MIAA's official position has changed over the years. As one spokesman put it. “We used to think that we had to protect athletes from coaches who went overboard during the off-season. Society has changed and we no longer wish to stand in the way of parents who pursue a lifetime dream of a college scholarship for their child and coaches who are afraid of the decisions an athlete may make when outside their influence.”
The second new proposal is a compromise between “ball” vs. “no ball” sports. Starting in 2009, all Massachusetts schools must offer an equal number of sporting opportunities both by gender and the new category of “equipment equity”. Type 1 sports will be all those that do not require use of a ball, while Type 2 sports will be the traditional ball oriented games.
The changes were implemented to stave off a pending class action lawsuit by a group of students who were “constantly being cut from sports due to lack of hand-eye coordination.” The students argued “there is an inherent lack of ball skills in a large segment of the population.” Thus, their contention was that the MIAA was promulgating regulations that reinforced the institutional bias built up over a century of “ball dominated sports”.
The new regulations, while attempting to create skill equity are sure to have some detractors. High schools must offer the same number of Type 1 vs. Type 2 sports for each gender in each season. This created a special burden in the fall where schools often offer a disproportionate number of Type 2 sports.
To alleviate pressure, the MIAA is opening a fourth season (summer sports). Schools will now have the ability to shift some of the Type 2 sports such as football and field hockey to the summer. Those sports could be balanced by summer track and summer cheering. With school not in session, those sports could also have double sessions each day.
One vast improvement would be to have the traditional Thanksgiving Day football games moved to Labor Day when the weather is better.
The MIAA has yet to make recommendations on archery, badminton and hockey since they require hand-eye co-ordination but technically require no balls.