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.
“The conference is just too large; it’s 16 teams [including the three being added and the six leaving],” said Minnehaha Academy athletic director Homar Ramirez. “When the conference was at thirteen teams [Minnehaha voiced] concerns because of the disparity of sizes of schools. You’d have schools that exceed 600 to 700 students to schools that don’t have 250 students. So when you’re talking about that size disparity in your schools, that impacts athletics.”
The danger of having too large of a conference, remarked Ramirez, was having a 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.
“I think there’s a couple ways you look at it when you’re a coach or an athletic director,” said Ramirez. “If you have a young team, you’re not going to put them in a situation where they’re going to be continually beat up and defeated. If you have a more experienced team, you’re going to challenge them more and you’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.”
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.
“Primarily you’re going to schedule teams that are comparable to you,” said Ramirez. “For example, in girls’ basketball, we have three teams: a varsity, a junior varsity and a C-squad. Those are the schools that we’re going to schedule with, schools that have those three teams for girls’ basketball. If a school has five or six girls’ basketball teams, we’re probably not going to be interested scheduling with them. We’re looking for a balance.”
Competitive levels are predicted be more paralleled as well, with fewer humiliating shut-outs on either side.
“There are going to be games that are ultra-competitive and phenomenal games,” continued Ramirez. “There 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 we’ve won and it was good situation for us to be in. Our desire is to minimize the ‘we win really big’ or ‘we lose really big’ [games].”
The Blake School’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 girls’ soccer team (which won state two years ago) and the girls’ volleyball team that was less competitive.
“We can choose to play teams that are competitive at our level,” he said. “And with us being independent and picking our schedule, it will kind of allow both programs more freedom and more room to grow.”
The flexibility with scheduling allows for better-matched games between competitors and also provides opportunities for balance within athletes’ personal lives.
“You have to think about [athletes’] schedules,” said Rathmann. “We worry about SAT dates. We worry about prom, religious holidays, choir concerts. You’re looking at what dates are available.”
A big part of high school sports are the friendly rivalries that develop between schools.
“I like the competition we have,” said junior Jennifer Mrozek, who has been a part of Minnehaha’s girls ‘tennis, basketball and softball teams since middle school. “It’s fun to play the same teams year after year, so you can see how they’re getting better and how you’re getting better.”
That, rest assured, will still remain a part of the sporting experience.
“You’re going to see pretty similar schedules to what you’ve seen in the past,” said Ramirez. “The schools that are in the Tri-Metro Conference, we’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, we’ll schedule them. They are traditional rivals that we’ve been playing forever.”
It all comes down to what kind of impact will this change have on teams and their athletes.
“I 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,” said Rathmann. “I hope that we’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.”