IHSA short-changing volleyball teams with latest blunder
Looking at the condition of the girls volleyball state tournaments, I feel like a parent who left a toddler alone in a playroom and returned to wonder when the tornado hit.
What a mess!
The Illinois High School Association has long been an easy target for some of its head-scratching moves, but it outdid itself this time in the way it restructured the girls volleyball state tourneys as the number of classes doubled to four this season.
The IHSA altered the structure unbeknownst to coaches around the state, further diminishing a tournament system already plagued by unbalanced brackets caused by the organization's geographic representation philosophy.
Instead of playing one playoff match a day, teams will now have to win two matches in one day in regionals and then again in sectionals in order to advance.
This was done to minimize as long as three-hour one-way road trips for downstate schools. A nice idea on its own, but the fact that it undoubtedly will affect the most important matches of the season throughout the state has made the new format go over with most coaches in the area as well as a serve into the net.
Also, a team playing the second semifinal in regionals and sectionals could have as little as 15 minutes between the end of its first match and the start of warmups for its second. That's not much time to catch your breath, go to the bathroom, get retaped and change a sweat-logged jersey much less to receive instructions from your coach for the next match.
And if girls somehow are able to change from one match to the next like Superman spinning out of a phone booth, that's one thing. Their being able to recover physically and mentally is another.
That's perhaps the biggest reason that has some coaches insulted by the two-matches-in-one-day deal. The insinuation is that girls don't physically exert themselves enough during a match for playing two in one day to matter.
Having covered many a big match that has gone three games, I can tell you that often the players are wiped out physically and emotionally after 90 minutes of jumping, diving and slugging it out at the net.
To point out that teams play three matches on a Saturday in regular-season tourneys as a justification for the two-in-one-day playoff schedule doesn't quite get it. Those matches are not of the same magnitude as a state playoff match, and even in Saturday tourneys teams often have an hour or more between matches.
Then there's the issue of scouting reports and game plans being severely curtailed for a team's second match in a day. To diminish a team's ability to prepare for an opponent to such an extent takes away one of the basic elements involved in team sports.
There are many outstanding coaches in the area who, like their athletes, are a cut above. It's a shame they won't be able to put their full expertise to work. Now what is a coach supposed to do in practice, prepare the team for its semifinal opponent as well as the two teams it could possibly meet in the final, thereby committing the cardinal sin of looking ahead, or focus on the first opponent and somehow prepare on the fly in the short break before the next match?
Illinois is a hotbed for girls volleyball with 11 teams as of deadline ranked in the top 100 nationally by PrepVolleyball.com. Yet girls volleyball is being treated like it's a second-class sport. If you don't think that's the case, answer these questions:
Do you expect the IHSA to make basketball teams play two games in one day in regionals and sectionals? Can you imagine the playoff football teams being given only 15 minutes to install a game plan?
After this year's mess runs its course, it's time to spike the current girls volleyball playoff format and put things back where they belong.