There is going to be big changes coming to the the BC high school sports scene in the not too distant future.
Starting in the 2019-2020 school year, the boundaries in the Lower Mainland will be redrawn. The current two zones of Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley will essentially be split in half, making four new zones for a total of nine for all BC high school sports. As well, girls basketball will now have four tiers of competition, similar to what boys basketball has had the past few seasons.
“We haven’t reseeded as an organization since our creation nearly fifty years ago” said Jordan Abney, the Executive Director of BC School Sports. “As everyone is aware, the demographics and the location has changed a lot, the location where people live have changed a lot over those fifty years, with tremendous growth in the [Fraser] Valley and that has changed the balance within our organization.
We have 458 schools and roughly a quarter of those are in the Fraser Valley, in one of our seven zones. So the imbalance and the challenges that created from just a logistical standpoint impacted the student athlete experience was reason enough.”
With the rapid expansion of the Fraser Valley in recent years, there was a great need to reflect that big demographic shift in high school athletics. In March of 2017, a survey was sent out that asked members about the possibility of splitting up the zones.
From that point, another survey was sent out in September of 2017 at which point the discussion was moved to how many new zones there should be. In a vote in May, it was decided that the there would now be four different zones to replace the former Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley zones. Zones such as Vancouver Island and Okanagan remain the same.
"You think about it in your head and it doesn't really make much sense" said Argyle girls basketball head coach Anthony Beyrouti. "But then you look at it on a map and it makes perfect sense because they're all the closest to each other on the map strategically. But in our historical breakdown in our head, it makes things pretty confusing. But I think it will work out well and people will like it."
“It’s a big change” remarked Abney. “You’re talking about the changing of history of the Lower Mainland tournaments, they’ve been around a really long time and there’s a lot of history that goes with them.
That’s what makes change so hard, is moving forward in the face of some of that to create new history. We were under no illusion that it was going to be unanimous and it was a highly debated issue both at the committee level and once the resolution came out to the membership.”
So what changes will this have for provincial tournaments of all sports? Simply put, the number of at large berths will decrease from nine to seven, and the number of zone berths will increase from seven to nine with the two new zones in place.
“The reality is I don’t think you’re going to see too significant an impact, because I think you’ll see the same teams that do qualify” said Abney. “It just means that the zone tournaments are a little more manageable and the season to play for all students even for the teams that don’t have a chance to get to the zone or provincial championships will be extended to provide a better experience.”
For girls basketball, there will now be a four tier system similar to what boys basketball has. The four tier system will start in the 2019-2020 season concurrently with the new zone system.
“I think some of the membership felt that the boys have had that for a while and it provides access to a championship and a positive experience said Abney on the switch to four tiers in girls basketball. “We certainly just don’t want to create championships so that everyone goes to provincials, because that devalues provincials and that’s not necessarily what we are here for.
That said, there’s a ton of young ladies playing basketball and it’s certainly not unrealistic to see more tournaments will be good for the growth of the game. The membership supported that overwhelmingly and we look forward to seeing four tiers very soon.”
“I think the four tiers is a fantastic idea" remarked Beyrouti. "We get another two hundred kids to play in a provincial championship every year. A lot of kids put in a lot of work, and it will be a fantastic opportunity for people to highlight the end of the season with a nice competitive game and extend their season.”
Both changes will drastically alter the BC high school sports landscape for the foreseeable future, and it will naturally alter how we look at past champions. But like most things in life accepting change does not happen overnight — it is a process that takes time.
Written by: Nick Bondi