Forget About “Competitive Balance” And Think About Sportsmanship

Back in May, Ohio high school principals showed surprisingly good sense and voted down a proposal to try to achieve “competitive balance” in Ohio high school athletics.  By a close vote, the principals rejected a reformulation of how teams are assigned to divisions that would have considered factors like open enrollment, historical performance, and socioeconomic factors.  In reality, the proposal was a response to complaints of public high school coaches and administrators who are tired of losing to parochial and private school teams in the playoffs and want to “level the playing field.”

Now I see that the Ohio High School Athletic Association is reviving the issue and will survey its members to “gather feedback on the competitive balance issue.”  In the meantime, an OHSAA committee will consider “more balanced” methods of placing schools into divisions.  Some are speculating that the public schools and the private schools will eventually be put into separate tournaments in order to promote perceived “fairness.”

It’s hard to believe that high school administrators don’t have more important things to worry about than “competitive balance” in athletics.  In any case, isn’t the eternal quest for a purported “level playing field” antithetical to what high school sports is supposed to be about in the first place?  Anyone who has participated in a high school sports is told that the goal is improvement, team play, sportsmanship, and playing the game fairly — not winning at all costs.  The fact that administrators have noticed that parochial schools are beating the daylights out of public schools, and are trying to rig the division assignment system to prevent that result, demonstrates that winning is truly the ultimate goal — and if it can’t be accomplished through hard work, dedication, and good coaching, we’ll try to get there by changing the rules.  Pretty pathetic!