High school athletics in the state of Virginia officially have a massive shake up for the 2017-18 school year. Postseason play has been reshaped for the second time in five years and early opinions appear to be mixed. The controversial conferences are officially out and district play is back.
“Conference for cross country was really meaningless, a pride thing,” Harry Booth, head cross country coach, said.
While district play reshapes the playoff format, it still leaves a relatively meaningless level in the system.
“It has no factor to us, all eight teams in region B go to regionals, it tends to make it not as important,” Booth said. This still may leave many coaches and players questioning what has changed.
The regions have doubled from two to four creating a more geographically sensible design. Part of what frustrated many athletes and coaches over the past few years was the immense amount of time spent traveling for playoff games. One notable example was the state semifinal game the varsity football team played a year ago at Oscar Smith High School, a school nearly three hours away from the confines of Eagle Stadium.
“Whenever you’re playing away it’s a lot harder. The game is on Saturday so you have to wake up earlier for the long drive. It takes a toll on your bodies and just being mentally ready to play takes a different approach, Zack Kindel (‘19) said, a wide receiver for the football team.
Ultimately, the VHSL is looking for a renewed level of enthusiasm for high school sports in Virginia. Something they believe can be found with a re-emphasis on local rivalries, and less unnecessary travel.
“Rivalries get the teams more fired up to play each other and it makes them play to the best of their ability, like Hylton we play Hylton a lot and it’s always a good game,” Kindel said. “Close schools like Stafford and Brooke Point always make it fun and more enjoying for the players.”