ATHLETICS AND TRANSFERS

The blogs on WIAA Classification and TSD Athletic performance generated a number of inquires about the policies on transfer students when it comes to athletic programs.  In particular, I have been in Tumwater long enough to hear plenty of complaints that students transfer to TSD, and specifically THS, for athletics.  I prefer data over assumptions or guesses, so I wanted to do some research and see if I could come to any conclusions.   We did some research, and came up with some answers to several questions that we thought might be of interest to our followers.  

WHAT IS TSD’S POLICY ON TRANSFERRING FOR ATHLETICS

I could find no express policy with respect to whether or not transfers for athletics are encouraged or discouraged in TSD.  In fact, TSD’s transfer application does not even have a spot to list the reason for transferring.  While I doubt many people would explicitly indicate a transfer is sought for athletics, there is no opportunity to do so on the application. 

In fact, it appears to me that the coaches and athletic directors have very limited knowledge as to whether or not an athlete is a transfer student.   When I asked, many coaches had no idea whether athletes were resident students or transfers.  From what I can tell, once a student is admitted as a transfer he or she is simply integrated with the rest of the population.  

I am aware that there are rumors of athletes being recruited to transfer to TSD schools.  Our investigation, and my experience, found no evidence of any instance where that occurred.  I am certainly not implying that I conducted an exhaustive investigation, but I am pretty familiar with the THS and BHHS athletic programs and can say I found no basis to support any contention of recruiting.  

IS A TRANSFER STUDENT RESTRICTED FROM PARTICIPATING IN ATHLETIC CONTESTS?

With one limited exception, transfer students face no additional restrictions with respect to participation in athletic contests.  The one exception is that a transfer student is ineligible to participate in varsity athletic contests within 12 months of a transfer.  There  are no restrictions with participation in subvarsity athletics. 

ne-year

Notably, to participate as a freshman, a student must establish residency(or transfer status) at the 8th grade feeder school.  As an example, a student residing in another district who initially transferred to TSD as a freshman would be ineligible to play varsity until the sophomore year.  However, a student who transferred to Bush Middle School as an 8th grader, and then was accepted as a transfer to THS as a 9th grader, would be eligible to play varsity as a 9th grader. 

ARE THERE EXCEPTIONS SO THAT TRANSFERS DO NOT HAVE TO SIT OUT A YEAR?

Yes.  The exceptions are set forth in Section 18 of the WIAA rules.  My experience is that there are a couple commonly used exceptions. 

Students who transfer after attending a private school(Evergreen Christian, St. Michaels, etc) do not have to sit out a year.  So, a student who (1)resides outside the boundaries of TSD, (2) went to private school through 8th grade, and (3) is accepted as a transfer student at TSD would not have to sit out the 12 months.  

Similarly, a student who attended K-8 in a District that does not have a high school(Griffin School District) also does not have to sit out the 12 months.  

There are also other exceptions, but, from what I can tell, the other exceptions are infrequently used.  

CAN ATHLETES OBTAIN WAIVERS?

Athletes can apply for a hardship waiver.  My understanding is that hardships are very difficult to obtain.  In speaking with the ADs, it sounds like hardships are only granted in rare circumstances, usually associated with traumatic life events.  An example provided by an AD was that a student was the victim of a violent crime at their prior school, and thus transferred for safety reasons, so a waiver was granted.   Notably, the waiver cannot be granted if there is any evidence that it is sought for athletic purposes.  In addition, the decision is made by a committee appointed by WIAA, and not by the local school.  I think hardship waivers are few and far between.  

WHAT IS THE RATIO OF TRANSFER AND RESIDENT STUDENTS PARTICIPATING IN ATHLETICS IN TSD?

As a refresher, for most schools in our area about 2-5% of the general population of students at any given high school are transfer students.  The rate at BHHS is about 6%, while the rate at THS is about 13%.   Here is a link to the prior blog discussing transfers.  

In short, the participation rate of transfer students in athletics at TSD was fairly surprising to me.   Let me first say that I found no evidence anyone was breaking any rules.  THS has a policy which liberally accepts transfers, a policy which is not prohibited by TSD or WIAA.  Transfer students go through an application process which was created, and is carried out, by TSD.  A little side note—TSD has formed a committee to review the transfer policy.  For more info on that topic, see the latest blog by Tami.   

I surveyed 5 boys teams and 5 girls teams, with no real preference other than the rosters were easy to obtain and I felt 10 teams was a representative sample.  I picked THS because most of the inquiries we received were about THS, and to a lesser degree, it was easier to figure out transfer/resident status as we are more familiar with those families and have better connections when investigating. 

I obtained the most recent varsity rosters and used public property records, social media and old fashioned one on one conversations to determine how many players did not reside within TSD.  Here are the parameters under which I operated:

—-If I was uncertain, I counted the athlete as living within the TSD boundaries.   

—-Because it was too hard to distinguish via public records, I counted all players living within TSD as resident athletes even though some of them should be at BHHS. 

—-Because the football roster is so large, I just looked at the 21 starters for one of the playoff games.  With all other teams, I used the entire varsity roster.  

—-VARSITY= total # of players on the roster.  TRANSFER=total # of transfer students on the varsity roster

—-I used the roster for the most recent playing season.  

TSD’s general student population is 13% transfers students.  Prior to conducting the research, based upon my general observations being around the programs, I figured the rate at which transfers students participated in extra curricular activities was a little higher than the general population.  However,  I did not anticipate the data would reveal 30% of the athletes on the varsity teams reside outside TSD.   

ANALYSIS

Once again, as far as I can tell, everyone is playing by the rules.  That being said, my opinion is that the data highlights a couple problems that should be addressed.  The most concerning aspect for me is that THS has a pretty significant “double whammy” when it comes to creating a competitive advantage over its peers. 

1.    THS is one of largest 2A schools, so its player pool is already larger than virtually every school against whom it competes in the 2A classification.  In the last go around, THS had the 5th largest population of all 2A schools(about 65 schools in total).  THS has over 200 more students than every other EVCO school.    This time around, it appears as if TSD is very near the 2A/3A line of demarcation(900 students).  The larger pool from which to draw athletes invariably brings more talent to the THS teams when compared with smaller 2A schools. 

2.    Compounding that advantage, THS has an inordinate number of varsity level athletes transferring in, which significantly elevates the talent pool from which it selects its varsity athletes. If 13% of the students are transfers, one would expect transfers would occupy about 13% of the varsity spots.  Transfers occupying 30% of the varsity spots indicates that the rate at which transfers participate is much greater than the rate of participation of the resident students.  This is an advantage is unique to THS given the fact that no other school accepts anywhere near the same amount of transfers.  

This competitive advantage has been realized with an unprecedented success rate, as documented in my blog about the athletic performances of THS and BHHS over the last 3 years(TSD teams win about 74% of their games and have won 43% of the EVCO titles over the past 3 years).   

Another side effect of transfer students occupying 30% of the varsity spots is the realization that many resident students are denied opportunities to participate at the varsity level.  I will note that most THS sports practice a “no cut” policy so that very few students are denied the chance to participate in the overall programs, but there are only so many varsity spots.  There are clearly many varsity spots occupied by transfer students that would otherwise be occupied by resident students.  Many resident students who are playing on the JV or C teams would be playing varsity but for the transfers students occupying those spots.  

CONCLUSION

THS is a popular destination for transfers, and THS routinely accepts transfers at a much greater rate than any other school in the area.  All schools accept some transfers(usually in the 3-5% range) and it makes no sense to strictly prohibit all transfers.  Further, the transfer students should be treated no different than resident students once admitted.  

Once again, I do not begrudge any family for opting to do what is best for their particular student athlete.  An accepted transfer student that earns a varsity spot should not be penalized, or judged, because he or she does not reside within the TSD boundaries.  The data does however highlight the fact that TSD has, likely unintentionally, created a situation that has resulted in a less than ideal environment in some regards and TSD should take corrective action.

It is no secret that I believe THS does not face adequate competition, especially in the Evergreen Conference, and should definitely bump up to the 3A classification.  According to timeline put forth by WIAA, that application must be made within the next week or so.  

While no transfer policy should be driven by athletics, the imbalance revealed by the data in this blog provides yet another reason to develop a more deliberate, and equitable, transfer policy that puts the needs of the resident students at the forefront.  Doing so would undoubtedly result in more competitive athletic contests, which would be better for all the athletes involved.  

As always, we welcome your comments, questions or suggestions.   contactus@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

WIAA Classifications

There has been a lot of talk in the community about whether or not Tumwater High School is going the stay in 2A or move up to 3A.  I had a pretty good idea how the WIAA classifications worked, and figured the topic might be interesting for a blog.  This is a short blog about the basics of how WIAA classifies schools, and the impact of that classification on THS and BHHS.  

HOW DOES THE WIAA CLASSIFY TEAMS?

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association(WIAA) has divided high school competition into 6 statewide classifications, primarily based upon net enrollment. 

Net Enrollment is calculated every 4 years, and the calculation excludes seniors.  As an example, the net enrollment at THS was 950 at last count(2015/16), even though the total enrollment at THS(including seniors) was about 1250 students.  BHHS had a net enrollment, for classification purposes, of 726 students, while its total enrollment was around 865. 

The current classifications which are effective from 2016/17 through 2019/20 can be found here. With very limited exceptions, each school plays all of its sports in the assigned classification.  The classifications are done in 4 year cycles, with this year(2019/20) being the last year of the prior classifications.  WIAA will rework the classifications effective for the 2020/21 school year.  

When the last classifications were done in 2016, THS was the 4th largest 2A school, while BHHS fell in the middle of the pack.  Here is the  current classification list of 2A schools:

lassifications

Schools can “opt up.”  Opting up allows a team play in a higher classification.   As an example, during the last go around, one school with 1A enrollment(Archbishop Murphy) opted to play in the 2A classification.  13 teams with 2A enrollment opted to play 3A the last go around.  Notably, of the 13 3A schools that opted to play up, only one of them had an enrollment greater than THS and about half of them had an enrollment greater than BHHS.  

THE WIAA IS CHANGING THE WAY IT CLASSIFIES SCHOOLS, AND IS MOVING TO A “HARD COUNT.”

WIAA has traditionally tried to divide the schools evenly in each of the 6 classifications(one-sixth in 4A, one-sixth in 3A, etc).   WIAA has about 390 participating schools, so each classification has about 65 schools.    The largest 65 went to 4A, the next largest 65 went to 3A, etc.  There were obviously some exceptions that I will not go into. 

Starting with the 2020/21 schools year, instead of using the “one-sixth” method, schools will be classified based upon fixed parameters, or a “hard count.”  

lassification-table

Under the prior system, there was some uncertainty with respect to those schools that were close to the threshold as they could not conclusively determine where they would fall at the end of the day given the classifications were based on which “sixth” you fell in as compared with the other 390 or so schools(top sixth, second sixth, etc). 

With the changes, a school can look at its count, and, with some certainty, understand where it will be classified.  The adjusted net enrollment counts were available November 25, 2019.  I have not obtained any official counts, but it is my understanding that the count for THS is somewhere around 875, with 900 being the cutoff for 3A, so THS would remain in the 2A ranks.  I am uncertain of where BHHS sits, but am confident BHHS remains somewhere between 450 and 899, thus it will remain 2A.  

When the classifications are done, the number in each group will likely be uneven.  For example, there could be 70 4A teams, 60 3A teams, 65 2A teams, etc.

THS(and/or BHHS) COULD OPT UP.

THS has a choice to make.  THS could play where it is classified.   After all, WIAA has determined schools with 900 or fewer students should be in the 2A classification.  On the other hand, THS could opt up.  Opt ups appear to be liberally granted.  If a school wants to compete against larger schools, the WIAA routinely consents.  

If THS wants to opt up, the deadline is January 10, 2020. The reclassification process is set to be complete by January 26, 2020 when the WIAA Executive Board meets.   

IAA-Timeline

WHAT LEAGUE WOULD THS PLAY IN IF IT OPTED UP TO 3A?

THS would need to affiliate with a league in which to play in 3A sports.  As I pointed out in my prior blog, THS currently competes, and pretty much dominates, the Evergreen Conference(EVCO).  Most of the local 3A teams(including Capital, North Thurston, Timberline, Shelton, and Yelm) play in the South Sound Conference(SSC).   THS could likely affiliate with the SSC.   The SSC also includes Gig Harbor, Peninsula, and Central Kitsap.  THS now travels as far as Aberdeen, Centralia and Chehalis. A move to the SSC would be beneficial for travel to some degree: most schools would be closer, but the longest road trips would be a little longer. 

The competition would definitely be more appropriate, and I am confident THS would not win 75% of its games and 50% of the Conference championships in the SSC.   

COMMENTARY

As a parent of THS athletes, and someone who closely follows many of the THS(and BHHS) teams, I hope the leaders at THS decide to opt up to 3A.  My reasoning is twofold:

1. COMPETITION:For competition purposes, the SSC would be significantly better as THS clearly has inappropriate competition in the EVCO.  Many THS teams are rarely challenged in league play, and as I pointed out previously, THS teams win nearly 75% of their EVCO games.  This is disheartening for the opponents, who often know they have no chance of success.  The process also is often detrimental to player and team development as it is difficult to improve in the absence of “like v like” competition.  I appreciate there are many high schools game across the state where the competition is imbalanced.  However, the manner in which THS dominates the EVCO pretty much across the board is unique from my perspective.

2.COMMUNITY/TRAVEL:  I would love to see THS participate in a league where there predominately Thurston County Schools.   The travel would be simpler(and more cost effective), the attendance/gates would be larger and the community feel would be enhanced.  I have coached in the community for years.  I watch athletes from different schools play together on recreational and competitive teams throughout the year, and would love to watch them square off on the field/court much more frequently.   

Ultimately, the decision as to whether or not THS opts up will likely be made by the THS administration.  If you want your voice heard, you can contact the THS Dean of Students Director, Tim Graham,  or the THS Principal, Jeff Broome 

As always, please feel free to contact me with any thoughts or comments.  Scottkee@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

An analysis of the Performance of TDS Athletic teams

WHAT PROMPTED THIS BLOG

I have been pretty active with both THS and BHHS over the past several years, and have observed hundreds of athletic events.  My overall impression is that THS, and to a lesser degree, BHHS, do not find adequate competition in the EVCO.  I wanted to collect some data, and see if my impressions were supported by the statistics.  Accordingly, I collected the EVCO results for THS and BHHS over the past 3 years(since the last classification was done).  Please note that this analysis only includes EVCO games, and does not include non-league games. 

WHAT IS THE ENROLLMENT OF THE EVCO SCHOOLS

 THS and BHHS are both classified as 2A schools and compete in the Evergreen Conference.  The other 4 schools in the Conference are Aberdeen, Centralia, Rochester and WF West.  Here is the enrollment over the past 3 years for the EVCO schools.  

nrollmentSports

THS has over 200 more students than its nearest peer in the EVCO.  BHHS sits in the middle of pack in 2A, and is about 80 students short of the EVCO average.  

HOW DO THE TSD SCHOOLS PERFORM IN THE EVCO.  

The short answer is exceedingly well.  If things were totally balanced in a 6 team conference, one would expect each school to win about one-sixth(17%) of the conference championships. Things are not balanced in the EVCO.  Over the past 3 years, BHHS won 11 of 56(19%) conference championships across all sports.  However, THS won 24 of the 56(almost 43%) EVCO titles. As a result, the two TSD schools captured 35 of the 56 conference titles(62%), leaving the other 4 schools to split the remaining 21 titles(an average of about 5 a piece).  Here is the chart of the results in all sports for THS and BHHS for the last 3 full years(highlighted years indicate conference championships):

HHS-Results-2016-19
HS-Results-2016-19

On average, BHHS teams win about 56% of their games.   More than expected, but not totally out of the norm.  A 56% win percentage is evidence that while BHHS excels, it is probably getting good competition the majority of the time.  

In contrast THS teams win about 74% of their games, which is much more than expected, and, in my view, indicates an inappropriate level of competition.  A 74% victory rate is indicative of a lack of competition, which, in my experience is pretty common with THS.  Notably, The 74% victory rate includes one team that only wins 5% of its games.  If that team was not part of the calculation, the winning percentage would be around 77%.  

15 of 19 THS teams win more than 70% of their games.  Astonishingly, 6 THS teams win at least 90% of their games.  I know that some of the readers will point to the THS football team, which has been dominant for years.   My personal view is that program is an outlier, and would likely be just as dominant in pretty much any league classification in the state.  However, it is somewhat surprising that teams can exhibit dominance in the manner in which the THS soccer, volleyball, cross country and track teams clearly overmatch their EVCO opponents to a point wherein the results are rarely in doubt before the games commence.    

A COUPLE FACTORS SUGGEST THE DOMINANCE IS NOT SURPRISING

THS has about 20% more students than any other EVCO school, and nearly 350 more students than the average of the other EVCO schools(without THS the average enrollment of EVCO schools is about 892).  The bigger pool from which to compile teams invariably results in more students with talent.   

Similarly, as I will outline in an upcoming blog, THS teams are comprised of a disproportionate amount of out district students, and it is clear that athletes transfer into THS in numbers that are even greater than the already disproportionate amount of the general population.  There are other variables which I have not mentioned.  These could include THS being a preferred location for coaches and boosters, facilities, and proximity to a larger population area(which may avail itself to more resources.)  I am sure there are other reasons which I have not contemplated.  

UP NEXT . . .

WIAA is reclassifying schools, and the re-classifications will be effective for the 2020/21 schools year.  In my next blog, I will look at how WIAA classifies schools, and how the re-classifications may affect THS and BHHS.