What’s the old idiom? Something about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure?
Well, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association ingested about a metric ton of prevention some years ago.
The WIAA bylaws allow for schedules to be adjusted so teams from religious schools that observe a Saturday Sabbath can participate in state tournament semifinals.
This wouldn’t be an issue. It’s never been an issue. But when Columbia Adventist Academy of Battle Ground qualified for the quarterfinals of next week’s Class 1B boys basketball tournament in Spokane, the possibility of an issue reared its head.
Columbia Adventist, a school of about 120 students, observes the Sabbath from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.
“It’s a day we would try not to distract from being with our God,” Columbia Adventist coach Jay Pierce said. “No shopping, no TV, none of the things we normally do during the week.
“It’s typically a family day, a spiritual day.”
That, understandably, doesn’t leave room for something as trivial as basketball.
But the WIAA is prepared.
If Columbia Adventist beats Colton in Thursday’s quarterfinals, its semifinal game will be moved from 9 p.m. Friday to an afternoon time slot, allowing the Kodiaks (16-0) to observe the Sabbath. If they wind up in a Saturday game, it will be moved until after sunset.
“I think there’s an acceptance and an understanding from the member schools,” said Mike Colbrese, executive director of the WIAA. “If there’s a way to make it work, we will make it work.”
This is in stark contrast to the Oregon School Activities Association.
For years, the OSAA butted heads with the wishes of Portland Adventist Academy, refusing to alter the state-tournament schedule to accommodate the school’s Sabbath observance.
For several years early in the past decade, Portland Adventist qualified for state but then declined to attend. After a slew of court battles, the school prevailed, forcing the OSAA to alter its policy.
Pierce was an assistant coach at Portland Adventist during much of that time, and he saw the toll the conflict took on head coach Lance Judd.
“That’s when they got all the attorneys and the ACLU got involved,” Pierce said. “The school and the coaches weren’t even involved; it was some of the parents. Lance, it aged him. It was very taxing.”
Because of that, Pierce declined to have his team participate in district playoffs in recent years — until he was informed of the WIAA policy, which Colbrese said was put in place about 10 years ago.
“They’re looking outside the box, in my opinion,” Pierce said. “For a small school like us, for them to be willing to change, it’s quite an honor. It makes us feel relevant.”
That, in itself, is reason enough for the WIAA policy.
If CAA earned a trip to state, it’s reasonable to accommodate the school’s religious observance. As long as the Kodiaks and their opponents know the situation ahead of time, a slight change to the schedule is better than years of court battles.
And, so, the Columbia Adventist players are preparing to pack their bags for Spokane.
“That is the stuff they’re going to remember,” Pierce said. “They’re not going to remember the scores of any of the games. They’re going to remember the trips and being together. Now, if they win a state title, that might be a lasting memory.”
Sounds like that could be a new idiom: A week of a state tournament is worth a lifetime of memories.