When is more too much? That is the question some baseball and softball teams in the Southern Section are answering as a handful of schools have turned down invitations to the CIF Southern California regional tournaments.
Eric Sondheimer, a high school sports columnist for the LA Times, reported that the Southern Section Division I champion baseball team, JSerra, among others, has declined to participate in the regional tournament hosted by the California Interscholastic Federation. Sondheimer quoted Jserra manager Brett Kay as saying, “There’s only one dogpile,” meaning that the section championship celebration was enough for his team, which reportedly voted not to continue its season.
It’s an ongoing question for high school coaches as regional and state tournaments continue to proliferate in California. For the longest time, the state track meets was the only sport that provided athletes a chance at winning a state title, beginning in 1915. A state basketball championship tournament didn’t exist until 1981. But over the years, football, volleyball and golf have added state championship tournaments. In the last couple seasons, regional tournaments have been added in tennis, water polo, soccer, baseball and softball, with the ultimate goal, I believe, being hosting state finals.
But when is enough enough? Sequoia girls’ soccer captain Addi Haws had to remind her team how great a season the Ravens had as they sat dejectedly for the final postseason team meeting after losing in the semifinals of the Northern California regional tournament. The Ravens were coming off the program’s first-ever Central Coast Section title, which should have been the highlight of the season.
Instead of their season ending with a win, it ended with a loss. Is that how championship teams want to remember their year? Apparently the JSerra baseball team wants to end on a high note. I don’t know if I can blame them.
The hard part is when a team loses a league title, but wins a section championship. Or, in the case of basketball, finishes second in a section final and advances to the regional/state tournament.
But with football and volleyball championship pushing up against the December holiday season, or the basketball and soccer team encroaching further into the spring sports season, and spring sports being played, in many cases, the week of high school graduations and into the month of June, are coaches wondering if the CIF is asking too much of its high school athletes?
Could the CIF be at a breaking point? Sondheimer’s report also said that many of the top softball teams in the Southern Section eschew the regional tournaments in favor of the summer softball circuit, which has a bigger impact on college recruiting than another high school tournament. If the best teams are bowing out of regional tournaments, does that cheapen the experience? It’s hard to enjoy a regional title if the best teams didn’t participate.
I know several coaches have asked what the focus should be for a season: is it a league title? Section championship? A chance to play for a regional or state title? It’s different answers for different programs. I would say the consensus among coaches is winning league and CCS titles are the two main goals and anything after that is gravy. And while there is the occasional grumbling about the length of a season, many coaches say as long as they keep getting to play games, they will do so.
But it seems some coaches in the largest section of the CIF are content with the season ending at the section level. Will that sentiment grow throughout the state? Will be interesting to see what happens over the next several years.
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