As a 100-year-old, independent, private, and voluntary non-profit association serving the needs of 435 public and non-public high schools and nearly 300,000 student athletes, we have an unwavering commitment to promoting and protecting education-based interscholastic athletics. At our core, we are committed to ensuring a safe and competitive environment, while also enhancing the educational experience by expanding participation. Our member schools – administrators, teachers, coaches, athletic trainers, and officials – make, interpret and enforce our rules. NJSIAA is not a seat of authority, it’s a community of dedicated professionals with a special perspective, and a keen focus on and understanding of interscholastic sports, who make decisions for the greater good of more than a quarter-million children.
We honor and respect the independence of our member schools and their right to make decisions that they believe best serve their students, but because high school sports necessarily involves competition between schools, it is unique in the world of scholastic education. Unlike various components of in-class instruction, decisions related to high school sports impact other schools, towns, and – most significantly – other children. Some teams in certain sports will face as many as 20 different competitors in a given season. So, a sports-focused decision by a school board or group of trustees will almost certainly impact a large number of students from other schools who had no say in the matter. Factor in that many of our members are non-public schools and don’t fall under the auspices of state government, it’s clear that an independent non-government, peer-driven authority is essential in ensuring fair play and competitive balance.
A pair of bills are awaiting a vote by the New Jersey General Assembly and Senate that we believe put children at risk, will shrink opportunities for young people, and create a competitive imbalance. Of even greater concern is that these current bills ignore the unique aspect of interscholastic sports and allow school districts to make decisions that will expose other children – who they in no way represent – to risk. In short, removing peer oversight and review of important decisions can impact 300,000 student athletes.
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As background, these bills would allow schools within the same school district to merge teams for any varsity-level sport, with neither external oversight nor review. The result would grant 20 multi-school districts, unilateral, unchecked super powers over 415 other schools and hundreds of thousands of children.
For those living within one of 20 school districts with multiple high schools, the proposed legislation could close the door to playing opportunities for your kids. For those residing outside one of the aforementioned school districts, this legislation will give those 20 districts authority and powers you simply do not have, as they expose your children to unfair competition, all without oversight or review.
Having spent most of my life on or around the field of play, one of the universal concerns of every parent, coach, and player is what transpires when politics enters the realm of sports. If, like most of us, you share an uneasiness about politicians playing “ball” with interscholastic sports that have enjoyed independent oversight for 100 years, it’s essential we all take a stand.
Larry White, NJSIAA Executive Director
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