HS Hockey grows.. still no National/Regional Championships?
The number of High School leagues continues to increase, but a lack of organization reveals the lack of Regional/National Championships.. it just really sucks. There's no other way to put it.
In California alone, you have five groups of organizations that come to mind (and that's just mine). you've got CIF-San Diego, IHF (Orange County/So Cal), Temecula, SJ (@ Silvercreek), and Santa Barbara/SLO (CCHSHL).
Colorado's CHSIHA boasts 15 Varsity level teams from various high schools around the state.
Arizona's IHAAZ has 9 teams from just about every corner of the state.
Missouri's MOIHA has a whopping 37 Varsity teams and is arguably the top league in the country from a competition standpoint.
Georgia has the GHRA, Pennsylvania, NY and even Louisiana all have leagues. Others are listed on AAU's website but weren't easily accessible.
I guess I have 2 questions:
1) What can be done to grow the game at a scholastic level?
2) If a National Championship is not a realistic option, why not have Region Championships, and then maybe TRY to have the "National Championship" at an already existing summer event such as JO's or NARCh?
Re: HS Hockey grows.. still no National/Regional Championships?
As always, I admire your sprit and drive. If only more voices like yours could actually land into the ears of the 'establishment.'
First, I do not speak from any official capacity or in representation of any league or party other than for myself. As you may know, I recently retired from SoCal's IHF League.
Among the challenges that face the Scholastic segment (level) and a National Championship are squarely rooted in the acknowledged factions that divide the sport, the tribal-like nature of most leagues not communicating for the common good of student-athletes and the basic profit motive. Add to that, the AAU's JO's are aleady filled with other levels and are under-resourced, and current tournament operators can only offer their branded version of a Champion - this is also true of the main factions who only want a championship for their respective membership & brand. Let's not discount also the daunting schedule disparities between the high school leagues, some of whom end their seasons months apart.
Your counts of leagues and their respective growth may not be entirely accurate. For example; your cite of AAU-sanctioned league counts into the total mix do not include the numerous USA Inline-sanctioned leagues. And there's actually a declining enrollment of student-athletes in some leagues. In some California cases, its epidemic! Count the IHF League among them (and San Diego, too).
Turn back the clock briefly to 1995 - the year some high school Sophomores and Freshmen were born, and call back to a report about our sport by the Sporting Goods Manufactures Association (SGMA) who then-estimated US Roller Hockey Participants at a whopping 4.2 million nationally. Regrettably, those fantastic numbers from 1995 have contiually spiralled downwards - 3.8 million in '98 - 2.1 million in '05 and 1.2 million in 2007 - the last year they kept up with reporting this declining sport. Even though located in the heart of the hockey hotbed of the country, it should then be of no coincidence that the IHF League experienced the peak of its growth years in the 2007-08 season and now finds itself in solid decline; 25% per year and the forecast is bleak.
Growing the sport from the ground up has always been the key: little rec. players grow up to play Junior High; High School and then Collegiate level scholastic roller hockey. Unfortunately, efforts to sustain growth have fallen short over the years. Calling on SoCal numbers, as the sport ages up and swells the adult ranks, many influencers in the inline hockey industry are now clearly focused on the Elite levels to promote the sport with hopes to create heroes to motivate younger players and attract new ones. Meanhwhile, the middle and high school ranks suffer.
More and more, the scholastic leagues should be communicating with each other to produce common ground and a structure for mutual cooperation - not just for which rink will host which tournament for their share of the pie (especially those controlling in-house leagues).
Scholastic leagues should not be hamstrung by the sanctioning bodies to compete with each other - save this factional competition for the Travel Club segment.
Develop an association of scholastic leagues & influencers to promote this segment of the sport.
Create a National Championship structure with a continuity plan and sufficient motivation to sustain participation from leagues across the US.
There's of course, many more ideas that may be added. Perhaps other high school players, collegians who played HS, coaches, league directors, parents, interested parties or even prospective sponsors may have some worthwhile thoughts to contribute toward this worthy cause. After all, playing with classmates for the school colors and mascot is an important part of the roller hockey experience growing up.