Six private schools to split with 39-year-old conference
In 1974, when bell bottoms and platforms were all the rage, Minnehaha Academy, the Blake School, Brooklyn Center, Centennial, Golden Valley, Mahtomedi, St. Anthony, St. Francis and Marshall University High School formed the Tri-Metro Conference, an athletic conference sanctioned from the Minnesota State High School League in the Twin Cities Metro area.
In 2013, the pants are skinnier, the shoes are flatter and six schools have decided to leave the Conference. Minnehaha, Blake, Breck, Providence, Mounds Park and St. Paul Academy and Summit School will no longer be a part of the Conference starting next school-year. Joining the remaining schools of Brooklyn Center, Concordia Academy, DeLaSalle High School, St. Anthony, St. Croix Lutheran High School, St. Agnes School and Visitation School in the 2014-15 school year will be Holy Angels, Columbia Heights and Fridley.
â€œThe conference is just too large; itâ€™s 16 teams [including the three being added and the six leaving],â€ said Minnehaha Academy athletic director Homar Ramirez. â€œWhen the conference was at thirteen teams [Minnehaha voiced] concerns because of the disparity of sizes of schools. Youâ€™d have schools that exceed 600 to 700 students to schools that donâ€™t have 250 students. So when youâ€™re talking about that size disparity in your schools, that impacts athletics.â€
The danger of having too large of a conference, remarked Ramirez, was having aÂ conference-only calendar, with no flexibility in playing opponents outside the conference that could potentially be section or state opponents.
Flexibility in scheduling is an advantage of leaving the conference.
â€œI think thereâ€™s a couple ways you look at it when youâ€™re a coach or an athletic director,â€ said Ramirez. â€œIf you have a young team, youâ€™re not going to put them in a situation where theyâ€™re going to be continually beat up and defeated. If you have a more experienced team, youâ€™re going to challenge them more and youâ€™re going to find teams that are going teams that are capable of doing that. To have that flexibility is really going to be good for [the] program.â€
Through this flexibility, Ramirez also commented, Minnehaha will have more chances to play teams that are in their section. So when it comes down to sections and state, they will be more prepared to play because they will have seen their opponents before.
Not only is this flexibility preparing teams more readily for sections and state, but it provides opposing teams equality in regards of the number of teams a school possesses.
â€œPrimarily youâ€™re going to schedule teams that are comparable to you,â€ said Ramirez. â€œFor example, in girlsâ€™ basketball, we have three teams: a varsity, a junior varsity and a C-squad. Those are the schools that weâ€™re going to schedule with, schools that have those three teams for girlsâ€™ basketball. If a school has five or six girlsâ€™ basketball teams, weâ€™re probably not going to be interested scheduling with them. Weâ€™re looking for a balance.â€
Competitive levels are predicted be more paralleled as well, with fewer humiliating shut-outs on either side.
â€œThere are going to be games that are ultra-competitive and phenomenal games,â€ continued Ramirez. â€œThere are going to be games where we lose but it was a good game, a close game. Then there are going to be games where weâ€™ve won and it was good situation for us to be in. Our desire is to minimize the â€˜we win really bigâ€™ orÂ â€˜we lose really bigâ€™ [games].â€
The Blake Schoolâ€™s Athletic Department also acknowledged the benefit of having an evenly matched competitive schedule beyond the confines to a conference calendar. The Blake School Athletic Director Nick Rathmann said that, at Blake, some sporting programs are stronger than others, competitively speaking. He used the examples of their girlsâ€™ soccer team (which won state two years ago) and the girlsâ€™ volleyball team that was less competitive.
â€œWe can choose to play teams that are competitive at our level,â€ he said. â€œAnd with us being independent and picking our schedule, it will kind of allow both programs more freedom and more room to grow.â€
The flexibility with scheduling allows for better-matched games between competitors and also provides opportunities for balance within athletesâ€™ personal lives.
â€œYou have to think about [athletesâ€™] schedules,â€ said Rathmann. â€œWe worry about SAT dates. We worry about prom, religious holidays, choir concerts. Â Youâ€™re looking at what dates are available.â€
A big part of high school sports are the friendly rivalries that develop between schools.
â€œI like the competition we have,â€ said junior Jennifer Mrozek, who has been a part of Minnehahaâ€™s girls â€˜tennis, basketball and softball teams since middle school. â€œItâ€™s fun to play the same teams year after year, so you can see how theyâ€™re getting better and how youâ€™re getting better.â€
That, rest assured, will still remain a part of the sporting experience.
â€œYouâ€™re going to see pretty similar schedules to what youâ€™ve seen in the past,â€ said Ramirez. â€œThe schools that are in the Tri-Metro Conference, weâ€™re going to be playing against them, some of them, the ones we choose to play against and the ones that are going to give us the better competition. The schools that are no longer in the Tri-Metro Conference, weâ€™ll schedule them. They are traditional rivals that weâ€™ve been playing forever.â€
It all comes down to what kind of impact will this change have on teams and their athletes.
â€œI think it will allow for a few more competitive games, and with that idea that means that each kid will get a little bit better from those situations,â€ said Rathmann. â€œI hope that weâ€™ll be able to put kids into better situations and give them better experiences. I think it will put us in a better situation than had we stayed in the conference.â€