I have a bone to pick about high school basketball. More specifically, how the games are scheduled. I firmly believe that it’s time for a change and it’s all to benefit the fan bases and the families of the kids playing. When the switch in seasons happened in 2007, all schools tried to give the girls’ teams their own nights and the boys theirs. That’s a plan that I feel failed miserably. As the districts have tried to adhere to that plan, more and more games are being spread out over the entire week, and I feel that isn’t a good thing, either. The majority of schools are sticking to the Tuesday and Friday main days with a handful of games on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
That’s the first side of the bone I find unappealing. It’s too many nights for everyone to be out. Kids are finding it hard to get their homework done, families are hard pressed to get any kind of routine going at home and if you want to throw in the media’s two cents, every one of us is finding it hard to do a really good job of tracking the teams.
That leads me to the other main argument I want all athletic departments to consider. It also used to be that the varsity teams would travel or stay home with one another. Girls would play at 6 p.m. and the boys at 7:30. Now, the boys go on the road and the girls stay at home, or vice versa. But what does that do to the fan base? It forces everyone to choose. Are they going to Frankenmuth to watch North Branch or LakeVille boys’ squads go at it, or are they staying at home to watch the girls’ games? It’s no wonder we are seeing a big drop off in the attendance numbers – we are counting the fans in the stands – and a definite change in the number of kids who want to play basketball. We find ourselves in the same predicament each and every day. Do we go to Kearsley to watch the Lapeer girls’ play or do we stay in Lapeer to watch the boys’ game? Every league seems to follow a different plan, too, but we are having to make some really hard choices and it’s not easy with 23 high schools in our overall coverage area. Every week I hear from upset parents who want to know why their kid’s team isn’t being followed with nice photos. Plain and simple, for the same reason half the fans aren’t attending the games. We can’t be at both sites at 7 p.m., so we have to make the hard choices that allow us to cover as many of the varsity games as we can logistically. No one is happy about the schedules, including us in the media.
I miss the full gyms and we see the small crowds first hand. I’m sure the kids and the parents do, too. I also know that the players on both sides are missing out on really great opportunities to support one another and their overall programs. North Branch football and volleyball set the perfect example every year and it’s one that should be carried over to basketball. The volleyball team has created its own cheer section in the football stands and that carries over to Saturday volleyball games when the football team and its followers have fan sections that rival no others. Those kids are now largely playing basketball unless they play hockey or wrestle. How great would it be if the girls’ basketball players could do that for the boys and return the favor when the girls take the court? That can’t happen if they aren’t even in the same county, let alone same gym on game night. I just think it’s a sad statement of what has become of high school basketball.
I know it’s not an easy task with gym space at a premium, but something sure needs to be done. The empty seats in the bleachers speak volumes and we certainly aren’t the only ones who notice. Keep the varsity teams at one school and the JV teams at the opposition each night.