Why All the Changes to the Athletic Program?
(Alliance League, MHSAA, Homeschoolers)
PART 1: Why leave the Alliance League?
I have been asked by several people, including Mrs. Wall, to discuss in some detail what the recent changes in the ACS athletic program will mean for students, parents, and the greater ACS community. So, I take PC in hand to explain what the Administration and Athletic Committee are trying to accomplish with these moves.
To begin, let’s just consider the numbers of students that we are currently educating in the HS at ACS. They are down, and not just because of athletes that have left! The Athletic Committee had to face the facts that, at least in the case of girls’ sports, ACS didn’t have the numbers to fill spots on teams we have traditionally fielded. For instance, last year we had only 7 girls sign up for MS soccer, and 8 for HS soccer. The numbers have picked up somewhat in 5th and 6th grades, but we are still VERY short for girls’ soccer.
This was a problem in more ways than one. Of course, we didn’t have the numbers for a team, so athletes that wanted to play a sport couldn’t. However, dropping a team meant that we went on “probation” with the Alliance League. This meant that the Alliance League signatories could “vote us off the island” any time they chose. Now they said that they had no intention of doing that, but it still meant that we weren’t pulling our share of the load…..especially in the area of scheduling. As an AD I can tell you that this is a huge issue. Furthermore, some teams like Tri-Unity, refused to play us because they recognized that we were no match for them, and pulverizing us was not good for them, or us. Some teams cheerfully pounded us, arguing that it was up to us to improve and to stop them if we could. That has been a bit tough on morale as you can imagine, especially at the MS level.
Now, this isn’t to say that the Alliance League is bad, or even wrong; it’s just not the philosophy that I hold for athletics. I believe that respect for your sparring partner is one the most important things we need to teach in Christian athletics. These folks aren’t the enemy, they are our Christian brothers and sisters, who are our opponents for the evening’s entertainment. Our goal should never be to humiliate them. This difference in philosophy led us to consider starting another league, with smaller schools, and schools who shared our values and philosophy.
When I reached out to some of these schools, it turned out that Aaron Cochrill of West Michigan Lutheran School had already begun to reach out to the same schools for the exact same reason. When Aaron and I spoke for the first time, I felt that I was talking with a Christian brother who cared about my kids as much as he cared about his. I gladly gave him the reins and stepped into the harness with him to pull this thing together. That led to the formation of the Great Lakes 6, the conference we are in now. The GL6 actually has within its by-laws language that stresses the importance of respecting opponents and provides specific strategies for coaches to implement to ensure good competition. GL6 coaches know that running up the score, raunchy unethical behavior, and poor treatment of opponents in general, could result in their dismissal after due process.
Now, has that eliminated all of this type of behavior? Well, no, not yet. However, it did result in our boys’ soccer teams competing with confidence in every game. We only suffered one mercy by a league team this year, as compared to at least half a dozen last year. The coach dealing out this mercy felt horrible about it, but we were the ones who kicked in the goal causing the mercy! Still, it bothered him that we had been the victim of a mercy. There was still some inappropriate language from time to time from misguided athletes, but the ADs of the GL6 immediately dealt with that, and the incidents seemed to become less frequent. That is what we are about in the GL6!
In MS Boys’ Basketball this season, we got our first “W” in almost 2 years at that level. Interestingly, we put a running clock on West Michigan Lutheran with 2 minutes left in the game. In the Alliance League, this would have just been, oh well, business as usual! In the GL6 I reached out to the AD of that school to make sure sportsmanship had not gone by the board and that we had done everything we could to avoid a running clock. (Running clocks just shorten play time for our athletes which helps no one.) The AD responded with a couple of reasonable suggestions, but admitted that there was very little our coach could have done (short of telling our boys not to play) and he was OK with the efforts that Coach Lockwood had made to keep the game as close as he did. That is all I ask! It’s not hard to respect your opponent. All anyone really wants is to see the other team respecting them, no matter what the scoreboard says! Nice job, Coach!
So, in finishing Part I, I believe that leaving the Alliance League was the correct move. It moved us into a league where we are more competitive. It moved us into a group of schools who joined because they claimed to have the same philosophy as us in regards to athletics. (i.e. They wanted all kids to have a chance to play and they wanted to teach their students to respect opponents and be respected by them.) In addition, there is no probation in the GL6, and there are even provisions for short-handed teams to play an equal number of opponents. That is something the Alliance League never accepted. The “pros” for this moved literally outweighed the “cons” two to one!
Tim Quinlan, Athletic Director