MPA eases cooperative team enrollment rule; adds classes for volleyball, lacrosse

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Additional classes for high school lacrosse and volleyball and a revision to the cooperative team policy that enables neighboring schools to band together to expand their sports offerings gained final approval by the Maine Principals’ Association on Thursday.

Those changes, along with the biennial reclassification of schools in all sports sponsored by the MPA, advanced through individual sport committees as well as the classification and interscholastic management panels during the past year before being presented to the MPA’s general membership as part of its annual spring conference at the Samoset Resort in Rockport.

Perhaps the most significant change involved the cooperative team policy, in which multiple schools are allowed to form collaborative teams in an effort to provide a wider variety of interscholastic sports for student-athletes around the state in the face of steadily shrinking enrollments.

Under the original policy, the full enrollments of all schools represented on a collaborative team were counted toward classification. That left the potential for a cooperative entry to be forced to play one or even two classes above the primary school’s full enrollment with as few as one participant from a second contributing school.

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That sometimes forced such cooperative teams into a much less competitive situation against much larger single-school programs.

“I think in the past sometimes there were schools that hesitated to enter a cooperative team relationship because even though they were only picking up a couple of kids from a second school it was going to bounce them up a class,” said MPA executive director Dick Durost.

The approved revision requires only the full enrollment of the host school for a cooperative team to be counted toward the total for classification, along with a percentage of any other participating school’s enrollment based on the percentage of players it has on the team.

For example, if a baseball team has 20 players and 18 come from the host school with two players from a second school, just 10 percent of the second school’s enrollment would be added toward the classification enrollment as opposed to 100 percent under the previous policy.

Cooperative teams are most common in ice hockey, with several football teams also featuring student-athletes from more than one school. Proponents of the plan believe it may expand such collaborations in those sports and others.

“The real piece of this is it’s a much more realistic reflection of the impact of that small number of kids from the second school,” said Durost, “and if it’s a larger number of kids, a higher percentage of kids, the rule will do what the old rule needed to do, which is probably to bump them up a class.

“But it makes it more likely that the first school will be willing to give the neighbors next door an opportunity to participate that they might not otherwise have had.”

The expansion of volleyball and boys and girls lacrosse from two to three classes reflects the continuing statewide growth of those sports.

Volleyball now will have 36 programs divided among three statewide classes next fall, while boys and girls lacrosse each will have Class A North and South regions and statewide Class B and Class C divisions.

Boys lacrosse will have 46 varsity programs statewide next spring, 19 in Class A, 13 in Class B and 14 in Class C. Girls lacrosse will have 47 varsity teams in 2018, 19 in Class A, 12 in Class B and 16 in Class C.

Also approved by the MPA’s general membership was the addition of a fifth, developmental class for high school football beginning this fall.

Class E was created to aid in the rebuilding of existing programs that have struggled competitively in recent years because of low participation numbers as well as in some cases shrinking enrollment. Teams expected to participate in the new class are Camden Hills of Rockport, Maranacook of Readfield, Traip Academy of Kittery, Boothbay Region, Sacopee Valley of South Hiram and Telstar of Bethel.

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