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Crunch time for new school-switching rules

Would make athletes sit out for one year

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It's make-or-break time for a controversial proposal that would force high school-switching varsity athletes to sit out a season.

The Manitoba High Schools Athletics Association has been threatening for years to take action against students who change schools to win trophies or get a better shot at a university athletic scholarship.

"This year there seems to be more people moving to play," MHSAA executive director Morris Glimcher said Thursday.

Glimcher said at least six students playing in the recent AAAA volleyball provincial championships switched schools this year to pursue a provincial championship and/or get top coaching.

The MHSAA has a draft policy it will discuss this winter with superintendents, school trustees and Education Minister James Allum, he said. If everyone signs off, it will go before the MHSAA annual meeting in June for potential implementation in the fall of 2015.

An aide to Allum said there would be no comment until the minister receives a specific proposal.

"It's mainly AAAA," the highest of four high school enrolment levels, in which students are changing schools to get to the provincials, Glimcher said. In volleyball, "There's six I'm aware of; not all of them won, but they did very well."

Glimcher declined to name the students who switched and played in the provincials.

A Nov. 27 story by Free Press sports reporter Melissa Martin named Tyneille Neufeld, who switched from Portage Collegiate to Westwood Collegiate -- moving in with her sister -- and Bruce Akubukaka, who went within Winnipeg from Daniel McIntye Collegiate to St. Paul's High School.

The MHSAA says top student-athletes who leave their local school not only make that school less competitive, but they take the spot of a neighbourhood resident at the school to which they move.

"There'd be a year of grace," Glimcher pointed out.

And there would be exceptions students could seek under appeal, such as a "legitimate" family move, or parents splitting up, or Child and Family Services issues, he said.

But living with an aunt while switching schools just to chase a championship wouldn't cut it, said Glimcher.

The MHSAA board has been dealing with a wide range of eligibility issues, he said.

Students in a grades 7 to 12, or kindergarten to Grade 12 school, would be free to change schools between grades 8 and 9 because they are essentially free agents when moving from middle school to high school, even though they share one building.

Students who have received their Manitoba high school diploma cannot return to high school for another year of sports if that student has eligibility remaining, he said. If a student earns enough credits for a diploma by the end of the first semester in January, that student cannot continue to play varsity sports, even if the activity -- such as basketball and hockey -- bridges the two semesters.

And students whose high school does not have a team in a specific sport cannot play that sport for another high school. The MHSAA fears the receiving school would cherry-pick only strong players and reject weaker ones: "Some people want their cake and eat it, too," he said.

The exception is schools in the two smallest population categories, Glimcher said, which can field a team by drawing from as many as four schools.

As an example, he said, "Rivers and Elton share a hockey team" because neither school has enough players to form its own team.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2013 A15

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