Updated: September 26, 2022
A few statewide changes could have a local impact on high school sports following December’s Minnesota State High School League board meeting.
The biggest change approved by the board lowered the minimum required number of competing schools per class from 288 to 192, which allows the opportunity for more activities to add another class.
“The cutoff numbers that they had just didn’t make sense,” Hutchinson activities director Thayne Johnson said. “At the region level, we’ve talked about it for quite awhile of asking the state high school league to look at those numbers and bring it more in line so those cutoffs and those schools that get classified together seem to make a little more sense.”
One sport that could potentially benefit from the change is volleyball, which could look to add a fourth class. Hutchinson currently competes in Class 3A, the sport’s highest class. The Tigers’ section this past fall included Eden Prairie, Chaska, Chanhassen, Shakopee, Prior Lake and Minnetonka — schools with two to almost four times the student population.
“If we were in a four-class system … the opportunities for us to have a state participant team would have increased greatly,” said Dennis Piechowski, Hutchinson’s head volleyball coach. “We could be more of a bigger fish in a small pond, where we’d be playing teams like-sized. Versus now we’re the little guppie in the big ocean trying to survive. It would be a huge positive to see it go through. We would be excited.”
Piechowski, a member of the section’s board of control, said it’s something they’ve talked about on a regional level for a number of years and proposed to the league. While they have done research to plan out how a four-class system would work, including the logistics of an enlarged state tournament, it is uncertain when any potential changes would take place.
“I know there’s things out of our control,” Piechowski said. “It would be nice if it would be done in one year, but I’m going to say more than likely it’s going to be a two-year deal because they’ll wait until they re-section, and they’ll have it all figured out by then.”
Other sports that could be affected include cross country and track and field, but the logistics of pulling off a three-class state meet, particularly with track and field, could be a tough task.
“In track and field, it’s nice that everything is right at Hamline (University),” Johnson said. “They can get both classes done in a couple days. Adding that third class, what would that do to the timeframe? What would that do to the locations?”
Renting facilities and equipment, hiring officials and staff and the labor of organizing state events all factor into costs that would impact adding classes to sports.
“The state high school league is aware the discussion is heading in that direction, to add a number of classes in different activities,” Johnson said, “but … the cost to run those programs and run them well would obviously be a major factor in those decisions.”
Two new activities on the horizon?
In addition to the potential adjustment of classes, two new activities were discussed at the meeting: boys volleyball and girls wrestling.
Girls are currently allowed to join boys wrestling, but creating a separate division for girls would allow them to exclusively compete against their own gender. The girls wrestling season would run concurrently to boys wrestling during the winter sports season.
Boys are not allowed to join girls volleyball, allowing the boys volleyball activity to open up a new sporting opportunity for males. The proposed season would run in the spring, when girls volleyball, wrestling and basketball aren’t competing for gym space.
Johnson said that most of the schools looking to add those sports are from the metro area, which have large enough student bodies to support the sports. He added that Hutchinson isn’t necessarily opposed to adding the sports if interest builds, but they wouldn’t come without conerns.
“With a school our size, how much more can we offer and start spreading our kids too thin?” Johnson said. “That’s a major concern for us … you get to a point where it’s oversaturation, and what is it doing to some of the other programs?”
Currently, Johnson said that he doesn’t think there’s enough interest in either sport for Hutchinson to offer them.
For now, the sports are still in the proposal stages, and a decision on their approval could be reached at the May board meeting.
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