Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Oct. 26, 2021

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Martinez: All-league teams cause consternation in 4A/3A GSHL after all

Tim Martinez: High school sports

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
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During this very odd 2020-21 high school sports year, the 4A/3A Greater St. Helens League has walked its own path.

For example, most leagues in Southwest Washington as well as around the state followed, for the most part, the WIAA’s calendar of Season 1 (traditional fall sports), followed by Season 2 (spring) and Season 3 (winter).

But the 4A/3A GSHL took a two-season approach of Season 1 (fall sports) and Season 2 (everything else).

The league athletic directors decided to do this to provide spring athletes, who lost their season in the spring of 2020, the longest possible season in 2021 without cutting short another sports season.

So the league requested and was granted a waiver from the WIAA that would allow athletes to compete in two sports at the same time.

Many athletes took advantage of that waiver and competed in two sports this spring. Others attempted that double before deciding it was too much. 

Still others opted for just one sport when in a normal year they might compete in both winter and spring sports.

And from the very start, the 4A/3A GSHL prioritized playing games over championships and honors.

I remember asking one athletic director how the league would handle league championships this season.

For example, if all 4A and 3A teams in the league would be playing each other, would there be just one champion of the 4A/3A league. Or would there be a 4A champion for the 4A team with the best record, and another for the 3A team with the best record?

“We’re going to let individual teams make that determination,” the AD replied. “We’re not handing out trophies this year. We just trying to get kids as many games as we can.”

So it made perfect sense when the Camas girls basketball team cut down nets after winning the 4A/3A GSHL tournament title game.

But it also made sense when the Heritage girls cut down the nets after clinching the best record in the league among 3A teams, proclaiming themselves 3A GSHL champions.

The 4A/3A GSHL also announced earlier this year that the league would not be selecting all-league teams.

It was such a weird year, all-league teams picked would also likely be weird, or at least weirder than they normally are. Even in a normal year, all-league selections can be odd and the cause of great debate and consternation.

So the ADs opted to table some of the angst that all-league teams can cause so that the focus could be solely on the joy of playing games again.

And to me, that made sense.

But then other area leagues, like the 2A GSHL, 1A Trico League and 2B Central League, went ahead with selections of all-league teams as normal. They did so after Seasons 1 and 2, and we’ll expect they’ll do so now that Season 3 has completed.

So when play recently ended in Season 2 for the 4A/3A GSHL, the tide of opinion started to turn.

And after the ADs reaffirmed the league’s position on the matter — not wanting to change course and potentially alienate athletes from Season 1 who did not get all-league teams — coaches in some sports took matters into their own hands, or went “rogue” as one AD put it.

On Monday night, the 4A/3A GSHL girls basketball coaches released an “unofficial” all-league team they selected on their own. 

“We as coaches decided to recognize our athletes and the work they put in this year,” one coach posted on social media.

On Tuesday, the 4A boys basketball coaches released their all-league team, but just for the 4A GSHL teams. We understand the 3A GSHL coaches did the same, although that team has not yet been released.

And the reason some all-league teams have not been released is that coaches are trying not to show up their ADs. 

“We were just trying to do right by our kids,” one coach said.

For 4A and 3A GSHL baseball coaches, the selection of yet-to-be-released all-league teams had another purpose.

The state baseball coaches association selects an all-state team every year, and the nomination process for this requires that a player be selected to the all-league first team.

“We just selected a first team because we want to get our kids a shot at being all-state,” one coach said. “They didn’t have an all-state team last year.”

The 2020-21 school year has been a weird one. And this end-of-the-year all-league tug o’ war between ADs and coaches just adds another layer to that.

But whatever side of this issue you stand, it’s important to remember that every decision made this year, whether by an administrator or by a coach, was made with the best interest of the kids at heart — all the kids, not just the elite athletes.

The problem is, in this very odd year, decisions made are often the least undesirable of several undesirable options.

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