JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two growing high school sports for girls got the green light and the state added a much-needed break for football programs during a lengthy Florida High School Athletic Association board meeting on Tuesday.
First things first.
It was a big day for female athletes.
Girls wrestling will become a sanctioned sport, complete with its own state championship tournament beginning in the 2021-22 school year. Female grapplers had long since had to face boys at the high school level and it wasn’t until somewhat recently that they started getting the numbers in the sport at the high school level to compete against other girls.
Sand volleyball, too, was a big winner.
The addition of that was approved as a recognized spring sport for girls to start in the 2021-22 school year. Currently, five area girls teams compete in sand volleyball in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference. The decision to delay the start by a year was based on supplements at the school district level having already been allocated for the upcoming year.
The other major addition was the approval of a six-quarter rule in football, a significant adjustment that will afford programs more flexibility in how they can structure their rosters.
That allows football players to participate in both varsity and junior varsity games per week. Previously, the rule allowed just one game per week to be played. That previous rule impacts smaller programs significantly.
If a school had 40 players in its entire football program, it would likely have to make a decision on fielding a varsity or junior varsity team. The ability for players to compete in both simultaneously opens the door for more opportunity.
“I think it’s vital, vital, to keeping football alive in this state, I really do,” said Mark Schusterman who is on the FHSAA board of directors.
Robert Sefcik, executive director of the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program and an advocate for high school safety in the state, said that he supported the six-quarter rule as it stood. Under the motion that passed, schools will have to apply for those players to compete in six quarters of play (playing a junior varsity game on a Thursday and a varsity game on a Friday).
Sefcik said that an application format would allow athletic trainers and those who have training around the program to monitor those players closely for head injuries, which is the biggest concern in competing in back-to-back days.
The FHSAA said that the COVID-19 pandemic caused a loss of nearly half a million dollars, said associate executive director for financial services Brandi Waters. The organization lost roughly $300,000 on sports alone and another $200,000 on spring product donations, royalties and sponsorships.
The FHSAA said that revenue for fall and winter sports championships increased by $41,000 over the previous year. Football increased by $16,000, basketball jumped by $13,000, cross country went up by $8,000 and cheerleading saw a $5,000 boost.
The organization said that its net income dropped by $70,000 from the same period a year ago due to fewer classifications in several sports and the need for more contest officials.