MSHSAA rules conflict with outside activities

Logo used with permission from MSHSAA.

Logo used with permission from MSHSAA.

Grace Vance

In order for roughly 580 high schools around Mo. to operate most activities, students must organize their plans around the Missouri State High School Activities Association. This organization creates and enforces regulations that activities must follow to coordinate events.

Many of these policies are aimed specifically towards athletic activities. This leads some students like junior Matthew Vincent, debate co-captain, to question whether MSHSAA rules geared toward sports support both athletic and nonathletic activities with the same effectiveness. In his experience with MSHSAA, Vincent said he sees a lot of sports-related influence in the regulations, especially in rules regarding coaches.

“Our assistant coach last year was complaining … that he had to train to help stop concussions,” Vincent said. “Which … as debate we’re not going to be doing as much running around.”

The organization has two sets of rules they must abide by. MSHSAA regulations for sports come from a national federation for athletics, which all sports must follow. MSHSAA bylaws regulate each sport and activity in Mo., along with student eligibility requirements.

Davine Davis, MSHSAA assistant executive director, said there are also specific requirements for activities like music that they must follow when considering competitions. With each sport and activity there is an advisory committee of eight members who represent one-eighth of Mo. when divided into eight regions.

The advisory committee “gets together once a year. There’s an agenda on concerns, changes [and] policies that they want to look at to update and make changes for the following year,” Davis said. “And so each year then we go over our changes with our coaches and our schools.”

Despite the steps MSHSAA has taken to fairly represent athletic and nonathletic activities, some members of debate, like Vincent, still feel limited with regards to long-distance tournament travel. One rule in effect, Vincent said, is they can only go to 11 different tournaments a year, along with only being allowed to travel 250 air miles away from Mo. per tournament, except for once a year.

“Although it’s been more of a planning thing, we haven’t been able to plan … these tournaments just because we know of MSHSAA,” Vincent said.

Vincent said this limit on travel prevents the team from seeing a different variety of debates from around the country, which hurts their potential to expand further into other types of debate.

“MSHSAA tends to be more sports focused than nonathletic organizations.” Vincent said.

David Egan, RBHS athletic director, said there needs to be an understanding of how MSHSAA rules are made before judging their representation among sports and activities. Egan said there is a misconception among students that MSHSAA is a separate organization that tells all the schools what to do.

Egan said MSHSAA is actually a collection of all the schools in Mo. that want sponsorship under them. If there are regulatory disagreements between MSHSAA and the schools, they can initiate a process to get certain rules changed.

“So it’s not like MSHSAA is this … other entity that … dictates to all the schools,” Egan said. “MSHSAA is actually what all the schools around the state … agree to do.”

The ratio of athletic to nonathletic activities in MSHSAA is based on what schools across Mo. support and practice, Egan said. For example, RBHS sponsors activities such as cheerleading and choir as well as 19 different sports.

The advisory committee for MSHSAA tries to organize all activities so each one is represented equally. They do this by dividing their bylaws into athletic and nonathletic categories. There are general rules that everybody follows, like being academically eligible, but some differences, such as transfer rules, only apply to sports activities.

“If you’re a music student and you move from one school to another, you [don’t need] a transfer request,” Davis said. “[For] sports, once you change schools you’re automatically ineligible until a transfer request has been submitted.”

Otherwise, the rules are the same for both sides. In sports, Davis said, coaches and directors of athletic and nonathletic activities are going to be trained each year on the rules specific to their sport or activity, along with new rules.

Even with the measures MSHSAA has taken to organize and keep rules updated, there is still confusion over certain regulations. Egan and Vincent both said they have had difficulty understanding the bylaws in the handbook.

“I was looking more into [trying] to find where they were referencing to,” Vincent said. “It was really hard to find… information that related to us.”

When this happens, Egan said he simply calls MSHSAA and one of the executive directors will inform him on what the school can and cannot do.

“I don’t think it’s… [that] MSHSAA is more pro-sports, anti-activities or anything like that,” Egan said. “I think it’s… a reflection of the state of Missouri in terms of what our schools sponsor.”