Big changes on tap?

Mar. 11, 2014 @ 04:12 PM

Enjoy this spring high school sports season.

There could be earth-shaking changes coming after today’s meeting of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Legislative Council. Today’s meeting in Murfreesboro could not only lead to a new spring sport, lacrosse, but the end of private and public schools competing together in Division I. Put together, the proposals could change the spring sports landscape.

“It totally could,” said Gatlinburg-Pittman assistant principal and girls soccer coach Whit Helton. “As far as classification and adding new sports, it’s something we’ve seen multiple times. … With the TSSAA being our governing body, sometimes we just have to wait and see what they’re going to do.”

Both proposals would have major consequences in Sevier County. The lacrosse petition was authored in part by Patrick Doyle and Seymour High School. Further south, at Gatlinburg-Pittman, there will be an anxious examination of what the council decides when it comes to private schools. The Highlanders have had teams in football, girls soccer, girls and boys basketball and volleyball all eliminated from the postseason by either Christian Academy of Knoxville or Catholic High School this school year.

Helton said he recalled making the A/AA state tournament with G-P’s girls soccer team in 2011. He said only a quarter of the eight teams there were public schools with four private and two magnet schools making up the field.

“If you’re going to classify at all, it should be based on public or private and then based on size,” Helton said. “Then you’re only really comparing apples to apples.”

If lacrosse is approved, it would become part of a crowded spring sports calendar. But Doyle, who started a girls program at Seymour three years ago, said the sport has reached a critical mass in the county with more than 200 girls playing in club teams at the county’s four public high schools. He said on Tuesday that the time has come for the schools to take control of the sport.

“My goal was to eventually get it to a point where I could hand the schools a blueprint,” Doyle said. ”When schools are involved there’s a lot more oversight from a medical standpoint and from a standpoint of who’s coaching it. I just think it’s time for that to happen.”

According to the proposal sent to the TSSAA, there are 29 girls and 36 boys programs currently operating in Tennessee. Lacrosse is a sanctioned sport in 22 states, including four that border Tennessee (Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Missouri).

The popularity locally seems to be just as strong. Doyle said he had 62 girls tryout the first year and three alums are playing in college. Three more Seymour athletes have already committed to play in college next year.

“It’s really been something,” Doyle said. “We’ve got so many kids playing, kids wanting to play. I think it’s time to turn it over to the schools.”