Eliminated some conflicts, created others
In the last school year, middle school girls soccer was moved from fall to spring in this region, allowing middle school soccer players to play at the high school junior varsity level in the fall. This eliminated a conflict with basketball but created one with softball.
"Our numbers are such at the middle school that there probably will not be a middle school girls softball team. And that's hurting our numbers at the high school," Danville High School athletics director Sam Harp said.
And the switching of sports seasons is one of the issues that will be discussed when representatives from the eight SRC schools meet for the second time at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Boyle County Middle School.
The conference consists of eight middle schools, seven in this area - Boyle, Casey, Lincoln, Garrard, Bate, Harrodsburg and King - plus Rockcastle County. It was originally a 14-school conference with two divisions. But Spears said some schools were unwilling to leave their old conference. Previously, schools could align with different conferences in each sport.
Kevin Stephens, assistant principal and athletic director at Casey County, said bringing middle school sports together under a common governing body will be better than the current system.
Stephens also agreed with Harp that the domino effect of shifting seasons could hurt small-school programs. Casey doesn't field soccer teams, but Stephens said if changes in soccer ultimately led to a change in the baseball season, that would be a problem at his school.
Fears forcing athletes to choose too soon
"With the amount of athletes we have, we'd have to cut football or cut baseball," he said. "We've got about 22 on the football team and about 20 in baseball, and a lot of those are the same kids."
While moving soccer to the spring did not interfere with Boyle's high school sports as much, Spears said he understands it has caused problems in smaller districts, where middle school students routinely play with freshman and junior varsity teams.
Harp, who said middle school seasons should correspond with high school seasons, fears shifting those seasons will force athletes to make choices too soon.
"You've got kids having to make choices now about what sport they're going to play at the high school level," he said. "I just think it's wrong to make these kids specialize. I want to see these kids play everything they can play."
Spears also favors keeping middle school sports in line with their traditional seasons. But with soccer increasing in popularity and participation, he said the push for a spring soccer season is an inevitability.
"I'm smart enough to look at what is smacking me in the face," Spears said. "I think any time you get away from that, you've got fairness issues where kids are having to choose (one sport over another),"
Harp said the statewide middle school principals' association might be best suited to set up controls such as establishing common seasons.
"I don't think we're ever going to get it corrected until middle schools get a governing body," Harp said.
The restructured SRC will also create consistency in other areas.
"We're trying to pull together the eight schools and create a conference where there is consistency in scheduling and common bylaws, particularly age," Spears said. "Middle schools are not governed by the KHSAA, so an eighth-grade team having no restrictions on age could have a 16-year-old competing. These are the kinds of things administrators of schools will be examining."
Hopes to hire commissioner
Stephens said the SRC hopes to hire a commissioner who would be responsible for all league matters from championships to assigning officials.
At Wednesday's meeting, coaches from each of the eight sports will break off into meetings to discuss and propse rules for that particular sport, run by an administrator from one of the eight schools. After those eight groups meet, administrators will then vote on the proposals of each of the eight coaches' meetings, Spears said.
And Boyle, at least, is going with the "majority rules" way of looking at decisions, its AD said.
"If we've if got a coach in a particular sport who doesn't feel comfortable with things and we can't find common ground, the coach will have to adapt," Spears said.