A change in competition


Graphic made by: Jada Akoto

Graphic showing teams played in 2013-14 football season compared to the 2015-16 season.

Sports schedules are always meticulously drawn up to best suit the team at hand. These schedules affect the atmosphere of games, the opportunities of athletes and the national ranking of schools. Rivalries are many times created through these schedules as well: rivalries that can last decades.

White Station football recently experienced a change in schedule. In December 2014, teams they once played were swapped for new competition. Previously, White Station competed in a mixed conference. They now compete in the 6A Tennessee conference, the biggest conference of six in the state, featuring mostly Germantown Municipal schools and out-of-state teams on the schedule.

“With the region that we are in, we’re playing the most competitive schools,” Athletic Director and football Assistant Coach Mark McDonald said.

Every four years, high school sports teams in Tennessee experience a realignment in their schedules. The change is brought about by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association. They base their decisions off of many factors.

Conference realignments are determined by statistics such as the size of a school, a school’s student enrollment, the amount of players on a team, etc. These statistics influenced where White Station stood in the realignment.

“[The TSSAA] decided they would take the thirty-two largest teams in the state of Tennessee and they would put them in one conference. That’s why we were put in the 6A conference,” McDonald said.

During the regular season, each game affects the seeding of a team in the playoffs. All teams in the 6A conference advance to the playoffs. This allows teams with worse seasons to be able to showcase their talent. However, every game still matters.

With this, the atmosphere of White Station football games saw a spike in excitement.

“I think the atmosphere improved. You’re playing the bigger schools with a probably bigger fanbase and more support,” McDonald said.

The overall consensus on this realignment from the coaches at White Station is that it has been progressive for the team. Players adapted quickly and the transition was smooth. There was no real opposition to this change. However, one aspect of the change bothered many people affected by the realignment.

“The lowest seeds have to travel to Nashville for the first round [of the playoffs]. The traveling is one downfall of this [conference change],” Assistant Coach Drew Sachenbacher explained.

Traveling teams have to pay for the fees they accumulate. The Shelby County Interscholastic Athletics Association has heard these complaints and have explained how this affects schools financially.

“The financial arrangement for schools has not changed. In each playoff game up to the semi-finals, schools split 50% of the proceeds,” SCIAA Athletic Director India Weaver said.

Despite this criticism, there has been positive feedback from coaches. This conference change provides not only a more competitive playing field, but also a way for schools to get their name out to other parts of the state.

“I think it enhances the exposure of the athletes. Obviously, a large school is gonna get a little bit more exposure than a smaller school,” McDonald said.

As far as other White Station sports go, the only way they could really experience a conference switch like this would be due to a variation in student enrollment.

However, due to the football team playing farther from home, WSHS athletes from other sports as well as football can get more exposure for their talent. This exposure can potentially bring more opportunities to White Station athletes.

“People that don’t know much about us are now coming and seeing our atmosphere here and seeing what types of kids and what kind of program we host,” Sachenbacher said.

This realignment is not perfect and the next realignment may not be either. However, it has been a very progressive change for this school. Change in sports can often be confusing, unhelpful and unnecessary. But when done the right way, it can truly be beneficial and progressive to the programs affected.