Leading off today:
As recently as two months ago, you could have rolled the proverbial bowling ball through the Internet and not hit anything on the subject other than a few thick files from the New York State Education Department.
Now, however, it's a topic that has crept onto meeting minutes from numerous school boards and will soon be the subject of one or more stories in every newspaper across New York.
Welcome to the Athletic Placement Process.
Above all else, APP is the new program for evaluating junior-high students who want to compete in junior varsity or varsity sports. As of this fall, it will replace the Selection/Classification Program, which existed in various forms since the 1970s.
The NYSED consulted with the New York State Athletic Administrators Association, New York State Public High School Athletic Association, Statewide School Health Services Center, district medical directors and directors of physical education/athletics in the development of the new standards. Not surprisingly, questions abound at this point as people at all levels -- school officials, coaches, parents and the athletes themselves -- start to learn more about APP.
As described by the NYSED, the key differences between Selection/Classification and APP include:
- There are no waivers available in the APP -- a student must meet the appropriate standards of physical and emotional
maturity, size, fitness, and skill, in order to qualify. Previously, waivers of maturation were permitted by school medical
director and waivers of the physical fitness test were permitted by the NYSED.
- Students will now be required to receive administrative approval (more on that below) to selectively classify.
- The district medical director will determine a student's physical maturity level, and assess the physical size of the student in relation to that of the students against whom the student would compete.
- The President's Physical Fitness Test replaces the old, sport-specific test components.
(As an aside, NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas, whose office is likely to field plenty of questions in coming months even though the policy originates with the NYSED, told me in March that he has reservations about some aspects of APP, specifically noting the abolition of waivers and the use of the Tanner Scale. The NYSED, which has been relatively receptive to input from the NYSPHSAA recently, has acknowledged those concerns.)
APP had been under review at the state level for about three years before the final draft landed on desks somewhat unexpectedly early this year. I started hearing questions back in March and some of the questions have turned into concerns now that the new rules are being aired at school board meetings or written about in newspapers. (I think Bob Jamieson's story for The Star-Gazette on June 8 may have been the first extensive media report.)
In mid-April, I sent a link to an online survey (more about that later) to 40 athletic directors from schools of various sizes across New York. About a third of them responded, and all said that their school district had not yet approved a resolution to participate in APP, which is probably still general concern No. 1 across the state: They're not required to do so, but school districts and private schools opting not to participate in APP will not be able to promote seventh- and eighth-graders to their JV or varsity teams. As noted above, that situation is changing as the minutes from more and more school board meetings show APP resolutions being adopted, so that issue will solve itself in most cases before fall practice starts.
Naturally, however, concern No. 2 will start to emerge. According to The Star-Gazette story, districts have started availing themselves of the opportunity to add their own tweaks. Corning, for instance, will not allow seventh-graders to play JV or varsity sports. And young athletes who do pass the APP test will be required to carry an average of 85 or higher in every class -- maybe the strictest standard in the state (there are some districts that pretty much only require students to have a pulse) -- to remain eligible.
And then there's the process itself. Selection/Classification was by no means simple, but the Athletic Placement Process brings with it added bureaucracy.
"The biggest difference is going to be the amount of time it's going to take to go through the process," Chatham AD Scott Steltz told The Register-Star. "There are a lot more steps now."
The Readers Digest version of the process:
- Obtain written permission from parent/guardian.