Given the circumstances, it is not surprising that proposals are being considered to give high school student-athletes an additional year of competitive sport.
In parts of the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has eliminated the chances for high school students to participate in their favorite sports or activities such as music or speaking – at least for a full season under normal circumstances. Things certainly didn’t seem “right” to say the least.
The state high school associations went to great lengths – working with state government, education and health leaders – to provide competitive opportunities, and in the end, each state had eventually returned to a certain level of play in most sports.
The NCAA has offered all 2020-2021 fall and winter sports athletes an additional year of eligibility. The extra year was granted due to the chaotic year when many games were canceled.
So, why not have the same opportunity at the secondary level?
There are many reasons why an extra year of athletic eligibility is not an option for high school student-athletes, including the maximum age rule and eight semester rules that exist in all states. Students who turn 19 before September 1 are not eligible for athletic competitions.
Participation in sports and artistic activities takes place at the same time as the four consecutive years of secondary school (Grades 9 to 12). The eight-semester maximum attendance promotes rapid progress toward graduation by discouraging students from delaying high school. Participation in sports and other activities is a privilege granted to students during their four years of high school, and this time is limited.
Additionally, the addition of a fifth year of eligibility, while it may seem “fair” to this year’s seniors, could negatively impact a younger team member by taking away a spot on the team. the list.
Currently, legislation allowing for additional participation is being considered in at least two states – Kentucky and Maryland – and proposals differ on many fronts.
The Kentucky Senate bill, which has now been submitted to the House for consideration, is an educational measure that allows a student enrolled this year to use the 2021-2022 school year as an additional year to retake or complete studies. courses already taken. However, it does offer students a fifth year of athletic eligibility if they are essentially taking courses from the current year.
The objective of this proposal appears to be educational in nature and would not attempt to derogate from the age rule. While there are still attempts to take advantage of any rule, Kentucky’s proposal primarily appears to offer educationally disadvantaged students an extra year to recuperate before going to college or starting a career. career.
Kentucky High School Athletic Association commissioner Julian Tackett said while the KHSAA has no position on the bill other than making sure it doesn’t change the age rule, the sport does not seem to be the priority. He said the reason the fifth year was added was fear that students would turn down a good academic option if they were not allowed to continue playing sports.
In contrast, Maryland’s legislation, along with House and Senate bills, would allow athletes to participate in sports the year after graduation – a measure clearly not focused on academics.
Due to sports programs halted due to the pandemic, this legislation seeks to provide an option to continue and end seasons next year.
This bill would force the State Department of Education to waive academic advancement requirements and age restrictions. The aim is to give students a better chance of being recruited and ignores the fact that high school sport only exists if it is part of a curriculum.
The Maryland Public High School Athletic Association and the Maryland School Board Association also noted that the proposal raises liability issues for unenrolled students who participate in sports on school grounds.
The NFHS and its member state associations have pushed high school students to be able to participate in activity programs – where possible from a health perspective – throughout the pandemic. Unfortunately, despite everyone’s best efforts, some opportunities to participate have been lost.
However, this has been the case for millions of people from all walks of life over the past year. The pandemic had turned lives upside down and challenged everyone to find the inner strength to continue.
Rather than trying to change the educational and athletic infrastructure of schools nationwide, we urge leaders to help students in our country move into the future. The values learned over the course of three to four years of competing in high school activity programs will allow students to begin to become successful and productive members of society.