In fact, official practices for prep football teams this “fall” began Aug. 6 — about an entire month before school begins Sept. 4. The remainder of the fall sports teams began practice Aug. 8.
By the time members of the Spring Lake varsity girls golf team attend their first chemistry class this fall, they’ll have competed in six invitationals. Their season will be nearly half over.
The Grand Haven varsity volleyball squad will have played in three invitationals and a quad meet before hearing the school bell rings for the first time.
Prep football teams across the state will each have played two games before the start of the school year.
This phenomenon is not isolated to the fall sports season. Most schools close their doors after the first week of June — yet baseball, softball, soccer and golf seasons stretch well into the middle of the month.
Athletes who play in both a spring sport one year and a fall sport the next school year may only get eight or nine weeks off from the end of one season and the start of another. Except that during that “time off,” they’re attending team camps and offseason conditioning, and “voluntary” player-led practice sessions.
When did school sports stop becoming school sports and turn into a year-round commitment?
Athletics and other extra-curricular activities are vital parts of a well-rounded educational experience. Being part of a team, and learning the virtues of hard work and sportsmanship are much more important in the long run than wins and losses.
School sports are also about getting the student body involved, and that’s hard to do when contests are taking place weeks before school is in session.
Schools aren’t necessarily the ones to blame. The Michigan High School Athletic Association sets the start dates and tournament schedules for all varsity prep sports seasons. As playoffs expand and the number of sports teams continues to grow, the MHSAA has responded by stretching seasons out longer and longer.
We cherish high school sports in our community, and urge youngsters to get involved wherever possible. But we would remind the MHSAA that these are school sports, and urge the association to not lose sight of the fact that these are in fact school-sponsored sports and should attempt to conform with the academic year whenever possible.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Liz Stuck and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.