News and views on current affairs, politics, sports and whatever else I feel like.

Everyone gets to play in the postseason in NJ high school sports

I have spent more than five years covering high school sports in New Jersey, either as a full-time newspaper reporter or as an occasional stringer. And I don’t think I am the only one who has a big problem with the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s (NJSIAA) decision to open up many of its state tournaments to teams with records under .500 this fall.

With the exception of football, wrestling and a couple of other sports, the requirement for state tournament qualification in New Jersey was a .500 record. But this fall, with the exception of football and volleyball, the NJSIAA is allowing all teams, regardless of record, to petition their way in. The result, at least in field hockey,  is a 0-17 field hockey team getting into the same state tournament as a 15-2 team.

Anthony Coleman gives the NJSIAA’s rationale in today’s Times of Trenton:

The NJSIAA said the change was needed to fill brackets because of the realigning of conferences. Teams feared not qualifying because their conferences were too strong. In addition, in certain sections, so few teams reached the .500 plateau.

The latter problem has occured before, both in field hockey and other sports. But as Coleman mentions in the story, the NJSIAA solved this by combining brackets. So why this drastic change now?

Last I checked, high school sports are played by high school-age kids, which means they’re close to being adults (and in some cases actually are at this point). They’re certainly mature enough to accept the fact that the deck isn’t always going to be stacked equally for everybody. Some people are going to face more obstacles than others with the same goal. It’s just how the world works.

The state tournament is supposed to be a reward for a successful season, or at least a .500 one. It’s not supposed to be an entitlement just because you finished under .500 but played in a tougher conference.

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