High School Sports: Changes to rules, terminology mark start of another season

Mackenzie Coggins, left, of St. Benedict Bears, attempts to evade players from the Lively Hawks, during girls high school flag football action at Lively District Secondary School in Lively, Ont. on Thursday September 27, 2018. John Lappa/Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network

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Each new athletic season comes with it a unique set of rule revisions, one or more of which will undoubtedly stand the tests of time.

And there is one rule change in effect for this athletic season in particular that I truly believe will be around long after I’m gone.

Phys ed program leaders have long struggled with the OFSAA transfer policy and how it tends to restrict opportunities to play for those students who change schools for reasons seemingly unrelated to competitive sports.

To add insult to injury, the across-the-board manner in which the policy was applied locally over the years imposed the same restrictions on age groups not offered at the OFSAA level, and/or on teams not eligible for NOSSA or OFSAA competition.

Begs to ask the question: Why? The answer, I believe, falls more on the side of clarity and fairness than anything else, but clearly, the time was ripe for change. And indeed, a change to the policy has been made.

Following the lead from many other athletic associations across the province, the policy will now seek to apply local eligibility restrictions only for those student-athletes on OFSAA-eligible teams.

From this point forward, it will therefore now be possible for transfer students to be granted eligibility for local competition on teams that by sport committee playing regulations cannot advance to NOSSA or OFSAA competition.

Here are a few other new initiatives that will come into effect this school year.

Midget no more: From this point forward, the midget age group will be known as novice. This applies to local, NOSSA and OFSAA levels.

The OPHEA safety guidelines, recognized as the minimum safety standard in place for high school athletics, has changed its terminology and will be known as the Ontario Physical Activity School Standards Education, or OPASSE. The website has been revamped, but can still be accessed at its previous web address, safety.ophea.net.

And still on OPHEA, a local appeal that was launched seeking to introduce a 12v12 flag football to the safety guideline was refused. As a result, SDSSAA will offer only the 7v7 version of the game for the foreseeable future.

At the NOSSA level, girls basketball has combined the AA and AAA classifications into one championship and along similar lines, boys hockey has combined the A/AA and AAA classifications into one event, as well. Both events will derive two OFSAA representatives to fulfill NOSSA commitments.


The Wrap this Week

Indeed, that’s not a typo on the schedule. The school year just started and the first championship is already mere days away: SDSSAA golf goes Thursday, Sept. 19, at Lively Golf Course. In boys’ competition, Lo-Ellen Park is favoured to win its third consecutive banner, while on the girls side, Lockerby will be looking to make it four banners in five years. One week later, NOSSA golf will be hosted at Lively, as well.

Flag football, junior boys football, girls basketball and boys volleyball, in that order, will open their competitive seasons next week. A total of 18 teams have confirmed participation in flag football, six in junior boys football, 24 in girls basketball and 29 in boys volleyball. Overall, the exact same number of teams have confirmed this year than last.

Dave Makela is the athletic administrator for the Sudbury District Secondary Schools Athletic Association. His high school sports column runs weekly during the school year.