Over in Parkersburg is the headquarters for a bureaucracy called the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission.
They set guidelines for competition among the state’s middle and high schools so that similar-sized schools play each other for state championships and everyone adheres to the same rules regarding the eligibility of participants.
The WVSSAC governs play in 19 separate sports (if you break out boys and girls separately).
The WVSSAC stages state championships in 19 separate sports.
But not band.
I point this out because it’s indicative of where the WVSSActivitiesC’s heart apparently lies.
That’s with athletics, not activities.
Consider that a year or so ago, the WVSSAC said it was poised to add a new sport to the array of interscholastic competitions in West Virginia: archery.
It’s a program that was nurtured into existence by the state’s Division of Natural Resources a decade or so ago and enough schools participate that the WVSSAC wants to take over and make it an official sport.
Sports editors (including our own Nick Carroll) regularly talk about whether the WVSSAC will add bowling, lacrosse, field hockey or some other sport next.
I think they’re missing the point.
What the WVSSAC needs to consider adding is oversight of and state competition in non-athletic areas. You know, the activities that are a part of the school experience that don’t involve athletic competition.
They could start by replacing the series of regional band festivals that culminate the school year each spring with regional contests and then a state championship.
It happens in other states. Our sports editor Nick Carroll says his alma mater in Indiana is as proud of its state band championships as it is of its football titles.
And by the way, band contests include not only performances by the entire band, but solo and ensemble contests too.
How cool would it be to be home to the state’s top clarinetist? Or trombone quartet?
As cool as having the 195-pound state wrestling champion, that’s how cool.
But band should be only a start.
Choir is an easy step sideways. Do it just like band. Other states do.
My home state of Missouri has state championships in speech, debate and theater.
I had a lot of fun as a high school sophomore going to state after we won regional in one-act play. I had a proud moment as a senior advancing to state in one of the speech categories.
Highlighting the great achievers in those pursuits is just as important as showcasing the stud athletes on the football field or volleyball court.
How many of our West Virginia high school athletes are going to go on to play college ball? Or become pros?
I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that we have more who can make a mark in music, acting or a host of other activities.
By the way, Missouri has a scholar bowl. West Virginia’s Department of Arts, Culture and History stages a history bowl — for 8th-graders.
The WVSSAC’s competition net could be cast wide and it would only benefit students.
Instead we have a mishmash of opportunities conducted by a mishmash of groups. Science fairs are held up to a regional level by the Department of Education. Social studies fairs and young writers competition have a regional and state championships, also under DOE.
Math field day is a product of the state council of math teachers. Poetry Out Loud is a young program of the arts, culture and history folks. That same state office also has a marching band festival each fall in Glenville.
Then there’s the whole career-technical education field the WVSSAC could highlight instead of ignoring.
Wouldn’t it be cool to have about twice the activities the WVSSAC has now? Wouldn’t it be cool to have twice the kids involved and recognized — and motivated to excel in something beyond sweats?
The WVSSAC needs to become more than the cozy little coaches’ club it is now, fussing over the dominance of private schools over public ones in Class A basketball.
It needs to become a true activities commission and bring the framework, guidance and glory to other aspects of the school experience that it does to football, track and cheerleading.