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Hitting the beach with a new AIA-sanctioned sport?

Posted by on October 18, 2011 – 5:19 pm

Among the many nuggets to come out of Monday’s Arizona Interscholastic Association executive board meeting, was a new sport.

To better align itself with Title IX — the 1972 Federal Law requiring gender equity in opportunities at Federally-funded institutions — and after a year of working with USA Volleyball, Arizona will pilot the first sand volleyball season this spring. With success could come a sanctioned sport in the near future.

Beginning in February, it will be a minimum of eight schools participating with a maximum of 32, with an eight-team state tournament in April. Each school will have five pairs of players plus two alternates for a 12-person roster.

Chuck Schmidt, the AIA’s associate executive director, said sand volleyball was an ideal start since Glendale’s Victory Lane complex will host the matches at no charge to the AIA, which will look at other sites for non-Valley schools who want to participate. The minimal costs of equipment and uniforms made it a more ideal pilot program than girls lacrosse, which was another top, next-in-line sport for girls to help some school districts balance the required gender-equity numbers.

According to the Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association website, 12 schools in Arizona have lacrosse at either a varsity or JV level.

“I think where we’re at was the lacrosse situation will be more complex: economics, budgeting times, schedules, availability of fields and how it works in terms of whether you allow schools to combine if they don’t have enough players,” Schmidt said. “The board discussed and was contacted by lacrosse to meet again and we’ll be doing that. Our focus is to continue that dialogue.”

Besides the lacrosse vs. sand volleyball debate about which should come first, the chance to increase girls sports participation at any level is always a good thing.

But will this just be the same 10 or 12 volleyball players from the fall sport? Or will other girls sign up? Will it interfere with club teams, often a priority for kids to reach the next level?

More importantly — and this is about Federal Law compliance, not the AIA or school districts — with football being the obvious skewer of sports participation between boys and girls, are we being forced to match proportionality numbers to comply with Title IX regardless whether or not there’s a genuine, widespread interest in a given sport?

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