August 19, 2017

MIAA is not for the athletes

By Andrew Matejka '19, Staff Writer

While it’s commendable that the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association claims that its mission is to provide, “lifelong and life-quality learning experiences to students while enhancing their achievement of educational goals,” they fail to deliver on that goal and actually inhibit the abilities of athletes to maximize their potential through ridiculous rules and regulations.

 Despite its mission statement, the MIAA only seems to belittle the high school athletic experience that should be available to every student at every school in the state.

In 2010, the MIAA made a controversial ruling when it determined that Dusan Kojic and Aleksandar Isailovic, two Serbian exchange students, could not compete for the 0-7 Provincetown High School basketball team on the basis that they came to the United States via an exchange program other than the one endorsed by the MIAA which is supposed to keep high schools from athletically recruiting foreign nationals.

It is impossible, however, to believe that PHS, which has a terrible basketball team in a low-division, recruited two Serbians to play high school basketball in Massachusetts. Both boys said that they came here to complete their education and prepare to attend a college here in the states. Neither of them should have been expected to know that there is a specific exchange program meant for them as it is incredibly unlikely that two teenage Serbs, or even their parents, would know what the MIAA even is.

Again the MIAA grossly neglected the well-being from the boys and took away their chance to have a well rounded high school experience, which is after all, what the MIAA is supposed to protect.

In addition, the MIAA announced a football division realignment in the fall for the 2017-2020 seasons and since then 70 high schools have appealed the decision regarding their school with all but Catholic Memorial High School appealing on the basis of being placed in a division that is too high for their school. These 69 schools cited that the demands of the higher divisions will increase injuries and make it unsafe for their athletes and impact the commitments their players have away from athletics, according to the Boston Globe.

A prime example comes from Bristol-Plymouth Vocational High School which was moved from Division 6 to Division 4 which rightly infuriated coach John Parris who referenced how the commitment required to compete in a higher division would take away time necessary for his players to pursue their education and vocational training while speaking at an MIAA subcommittee meeting at Dedham High School in January.

The dilemma that Parris faces would never have occurred had the MIAA actually considered the well-being of athletes and students before realigning divisions.

Division realignment is not the only problem caused by the MIAA as schools have also raised questions about the playoff schedule.

Under the old format, the high school playoffs were played throughout November and schools played in the championship games before most played their annual Thanksgiving Day rivalry game. This schedule gave meaning to the Thanksgiving games because they marked the end of the season, and high school career, of many athletes and put pride and bragging rights at the forefront of the competition.

Recently, however, the MIAA decided to place the high school championship games in early December with the Thanksgiving games in between the playoff games and the title game. This has forced coaches around the state into the tough decision of resting starters and seniors ahead of the title game instead of letting them take on their rival.

Since a state title is considered more important, the historic Thanksgiving games, like the Wellesley vs. Needham matchup, have been rendered useless around the state when one team is going on to compete in the state championship as the championship contending teams have begun to rest starters during the rivalry matchups to avoid potential injuries and fatigue.

Another piece of the playoff schedule change included the MIAA’s choice to expand the playoffs last season from 6 divisions to 8 divisions which, on the surface, appears to give more kids at chance to reach the pinnacle of Massachusetts high school football and win a championship in the Mecca of New England football, Gillette Stadium.

Unfortunately, this rule change didn’t include letting every championship be played in Gillette and instead caused the Division 1 title game, between the two largest football powers in the state, Everett High School and Xaverian Brothers High School to be moved to Lynn. In addition, the 4A small-school championships were played at Worcester State.

For these 4 impacted high schools, who played their hardest all season to reach the championship, they received a slap in the face from the MIAA and had the chance to make memories in front of family and friends in the home of the New England Patriots taken away.

While I must admit that the original purpose of the MIAA is well-intentioned and its emphasis on sportsmanship and growing not just as an athlete but as a student and young adult is incredibly important, especially when considering how few students continue their athletic careers into college, it is also irresponsible of anyone to neglect the fact that the organization has repeatedly over utilized their power when making decisions that do not take into account the students as individuals and limit, not enhance, their high school careers.

It is overwhelmingly evident that the MIAA has repeatedly made decisions that have impacted students and member schools in negative ways which proves that while the organization was designed with student-athletes in mind, its decisions have failed to uphold its purpose statement and proven that the organization is not for the student-athletes that it governs.

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