Our opinion: Focus on youth, not timelines

Warren County School District board members did the right thing pushing a decision on restoring girls basketball at Sheffield High School until after this year’s season.

The last thing anyone wants is thoughts of next season taking away from anyone’s commitment to the 2023-24 season. Board members will have a difficult decision when they do discuss the matter fully. Despite strong interest, Sheffield still has barely enough girls to field a varsity and junior varsity team. And, it will cost more to field a team at Sheffield rather than field a combined team at Warren Area High School. On the flip side, having a team at Sheffield makes life easier for the Sheffield team members and their parents, and the Sheffield team members will undoubtedly feel a level of pride in bringing girls basketball back to Sheffield after the hiatus.

One thing, though, that is troubling is the role the PIAA plays in these matters. One of the concerns raised this week is the classifications for the next two years have been set already, meaning Warren will have to play at a higher classification for two years even if the Sheffield population is removed from the equation. It also means the court hasn’t exactly been level for the past two years since Warren is playing under its pre-merger classification.

Wanting to do classifications every other year makes sense administratively, but, frankly, high school sports isn’t about making life easy for the PIAA and its administrators. High school sports are about the athletes. We note New York state changes its classifications every year, and even New York’s timelines can be too rigid for the moving targets posed by merged teams.

It’s disappointing to see the PIAA’s rules on classifications playing any role in this decision. Moving to yearly classification decisions would put some of the focus on these difficult decisions back on the students and what’s best for them. In other words, it puts the focus back where it belongs.


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