I’ve been covering high school sports in the state of Washington for so long now that many of the aspects of preps in this state I first thought of as odd I’ve now grown accustomed to.
But I had to think again about one aspect after talking to a coach at last week’s Class 4A and 3A district boys golf tournament.
“It would be nice to just keep this thing going and just have state next week,” Union golf coach Gary Mills said. “But that’s a battle we’ll never win.”
So, yeah, here in Southwest Washington, the boys golf season starts in late August and ends in October with the district tournament. Then there’s a seven-month hiatus, and the season resumes again in May with the state tournaments.
It’s the same for boys tennis, and you may wonder why that is.
Officially, the WIAA classifies boys golf and boys tennis as spring sports. However, it gives individual districts the discretion to hold the regular-season portion of those sports in the fall.
The reason for that is facility availability.
In Southwest Washington, there aren’t enough available golf courses to accommodate boys and girls teams in the same season.
In fact, in Clark County, there aren’t enough available golf course for boys golf alone, as several golf teams play matches on courses in Portland.
The issue is the same for tennis as most high schools have only four courts on campus. When you consider how wet it can get in the spring months of March, April and May in Southwest Washington — not to mention the popularity of girls tennis in the area which leads to some programs boasting of 40, 50 or 60 players — the idea of doing boys and girls tennis in the same season is simply not feasible.
And District 4, which encompasses Southwest Washington, is not alone in this.
Most of District 3, which encompasses the southern Puget Sound area, plays boys golf and tennis — and sometimes girls golf — in the fall.
Some leagues in District 2, which encompasses the Seattle area, do the same.
District 1 in the northwest corner of the state plays boys tennis in the fall, but boys golf in the spring.
However, in Districts 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 — all on the east side of the state — all golf and tennis is played in the spring.
Now despite what you might think, the WIAA operates much like a representative democracy. Formats, rules and changes are proposed and voted upon by a statewide assembly, and the majority wins.
But is having the majority impose its interest on the minority the most equitable way of operating?
In the spirit of fairness, which is a tenet the WIAA likes to promote, perhaps it would be better to go with a lowest-common-denominator approach.
In other words, if there is no reason why leagues that currently play boys golf and tennis in the spring can’t move those seasons to the fall, then perhaps those seasons should be moved to the fall statewide.
Because for many leagues that play those sports in the fall, it is not a matter of choice.
I know some would resist the notion of holding state tournaments in late October weather. But they could be played on the east side of the state, where conditions would be dryer, although potentially chilly.
And as far as tennis goes, there are tennis centers with indoor courts statewide.
For elite golfers and tennis players, that long layoff is not a huge factor as those athletes play their sports year-round.
But for the next tier of athletes, particularly those who play other high school sports, it’s a big factor, often putting them at a huge disadvantage at state compared to those who play golf and tennis in the spring.
The system ought to work so that it’s fair for everyone.
Isn’t that the ultimate goal?
Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep editor for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4538, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.