(BRANDON HANSEN/Managing Editor of the Chewelah Independent)
I thought I covered nothing but small schools when I living in the metropolis of Centralia which is surrounded by farm fields and poorly painted barns with Seahawks logos on them.
Then, after moving back to Stevens County, all of a sudden there are a handful of 1B schools in our coverage area. Having covered several of them for years now, and seeing how Chewelah benefited from the drop from 1A to 2B, I feel like the WIAA should work more and more to facilitate small school athletics.
First, I would like to see private schools prevented from competing in these smaller classifications. Private schools usually end up having higher income parents and sports programs that are run like small colleges as opposed to schools.
To win these days, bigger schools are running programs – something that’s tough to do at Chewelah’s level or lower. You’re happy when you have a full roster, much less recruiting a top-level coach or athlete.
Private schools have a place in that they can compete against the top level public schools that have the numbers to offset the inherent advantages a private school has.
But the small town schools of Stevens County are simply put at a massive disadvantage playing against schools that can more or less pick the kind of students that come through their halls.
Another thing I’ve noticed is the type of schools that compete, the rural B schools are much more in line with Chewelah where they get their best athletes for all three sports and hope for the best each year. This is worlds different from the top level 1A, 2A and 3A programs. This will upset perhaps some Chewelah people, but Colville is a small school and faces some inherent disadvantages as well. Colville football as great as it has been still has to ride low enrollment years for some classes and adjust accordingly. Do they have a great group of coaches? Yes, and they’ve kept them for a long time. I think they’re offering them fishing trips to Montana or something.
Then there is the 1Bs, where the towns these schools are in may not even be incorporated, and schools may not have a team from year to year. Why should they even have to think about playing a private school or a school that has a roster twice their size?
I wish I had solutions, but I’m almost of the mind that the WIAA should start looking at turnout numbers for sports like football. We have struggling 2B programs that turn out 20 kids, and good 1B programs that can muster 20 on a good year. Where is the happy medium and where can these struggling and good teams find a place?
You shouldn’t have a decade or two of just being winless. That shows a very big crack in the classification system.
You have some 2B teams that have opted to play a 1B schedule. I don’t blame them, because they’re dealing with enrollment or turnout issues. They have teams the size of 1B schools. But then 1B schools, who sometimes have 11 kids on their team, can’t opt down even further unless the WIAA gets a wild hair and wants to allow six man football (Montana has it).
It’s just apparent to me, we’ve got to figure something out because some of these games aren’t games anymore. It’s just a display of the haves and have nots. This statement extends to the 2Bs and throughout the state.
The west side has it easier because there are some combo leagues and other leagues you can join. In Eastern Washington, it’s tough luck unless you want to get a charter bus, but I’m sick of games being over before they start.
The WIAA needs to admit what we all know: income disparity matters, turnout for a sport matters, you can’t put freshmen against seniors and a program can’t survive a decade of futility over and over while our rural towns continue to see a drop in school body population Help our small rural schools find a level playing field because this is a style of prep athletics like no other. I’m happy Chewelah has found the 2Bs but give our 1Bs a fighting chance and give our struggling 2B schools that are in-betweeners a lifeline of some sort.