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Athletes could sit under new school rules

Tiers for city teams also eyed

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School-switching star athletes won't be forced to sit out a year of varsity sports -- until at least the fall of 2014.

And a year from now, Winnipeg high school teams could be tiered into three new competitive levels.

The Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association still intends to come down hard on varsity athletes who jump from their neighbourhood high school to stack a potential provincial championship team elsewhere, said executive director Morris Glimcher.

"The board wants to spend some more time looking at all the aspects of it," Glimcher said. "The board wanted to be cautious on it. The consensus was, we agree a rule should be in place."

The so-called redshirting rule already in place in some provinces would force a star varsity athlete to sit out a year of athletic competition if switching high schools for athletic reasons.

"There are probably 15 a year," said Glimcher.

Glimcher said the MHSAA has a legal opinion that it could impose a redshirt rule; the province has been vague about how such a policy would fit within schools-of-choice policy that allows students to attend schools outside their catchment areas.

"Going from Grade 11 to 12, that's when you have the biggest impact," Glimcher said in an interview in February when the redshirt proposal first became public. "You get two or three kids transferring in -- is that morally ethical?"

The MHSAA hears about most transfers from parents of kids who get shunted to the bench or even cut when new players arrive from other schools in the senior year of high school.

"It's not fair to the kids being knocked out -- I'm the one who gets the calls," Glimcher said this week. "There are enough cases that you know they're looking to go on winning teams."

There could be exceptions made for students whose families moved between school years, who are moving to escape bullying, or whose parents split, necessitating the custodial parent's moving to the geographical area of a new school.

Glimcher said the MHSAA is also looking for ways to tier high school sports to make them more competitive by 2014-2015.

Right now, there is some tiering into two levels within several sports in Winnipeg, but most competition is based on school enrolment. There are four enrolment categories across Manitoba high school sports.

"You don't want to have blowouts," said Glimcher. "We're looking at the possibility of having a tier system in Winnipeg, of having three tiers."

Tiering would be based on the competitive level of a boys or girls team in each sport year-to-year, he said -- schools could end up with various teams playing in each of the three tiers depending on their strength that year.

For instance, a school's girls volleyball team could be in the top tier, while the same school's boys basketball team is in the lowest.

There is also concern among rural high schools, said Glimcher, particularly in the lowest A population level, in which some schools have 120 potential varsity athletes and others may have only 40.

"It'll be the major focus of discussion" when the MHSAA holds its annual general meeting in Gimli June 17 and 18, he said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 24, 2013 A5

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