Hope, White City look at combining athletic programs
HOPE — Due to low enrollment, Hope High School may not be able to field girls’ volleyball or basketball teams next season.
Three small high school classes — graduating classes of 2014, 2015 and 2016 — has the enrollment at Hope High School projected at dangerously low levels in those years to come.
Since all three of those classes are also predominantly male, there are not a lot of Lady Lions.
“We are looking at a girls’ volleyball team next year that may only have six girls out,” said athletic director Steve Riedy. “It’s unrealistic to start with just enough to play. It’s not fair to your opponents: that’s my No. 1 concern.”
Cancellations would mean the other schools would have to find teams to play after schedules have been set, something difficult to plan.
“We’ve been on the other side of the fence with that,” Riedy said. “You are frustrated. You get your kids ready to play and we get a call that we can’t play.
“We’ve talked about this at (Wheat State) league meetings; that next year Hope may not, and I emphasize may, not field a girls’ volleyball or basketball team. We’ve taken some steps, like we are only playing our league opponents one time in case our girls don’t field a team. They (league schools) would only have to pick up one girls’ game or lose just our one game if they choose not to pick one up.
“Our league schools are aware of our situation, and they’ve been very good with being patient with us. We all realize that we are all small schools and it could happen to them.”
Hope lost 22 kids to graduation last spring and will graduate 20 more this spring. That’s close to half the student population listed as 48 with the Kansas State High School Activities Association. Seven new freshmen are expected next fall.
One proposal is to merge the athletic pool with that of White City. White City and Hope are in the same Rural Vista 481 school district and the two schools have combined to play junior high football. The merger would exclude track and field.
“Anytime you are doing something like this, you are losing your school’s identity,” Riedy said. “That’s not an easy decision. You just don’t know what the future holds. You go on, try to make do, and hope that next year is better.
“It’s a very sensitive subject, as well as it should be,” he added. “It’s changing things.”
The junior high football team combines the two schools and time is split between the White City and Hope for practice and games.
“The biggest part is the travel,” Riedy said. “It’s a grind. I did it for seven years in junior high football. We did it for three years with girls’ basketball when St. Xavier combined with us several years ago. You drive up to Junction City just for practice. It’s like having three road games that week, then you still have the two games that you play. It’s hard.
“Now if we were just driving eight miles to Herington, it would be different,” he said. “But there are two schools in the district and the first step is that you want to work together. Unfortunately, we are 25 miles apart. It’s happening all over the state. There’s probably a half dozen instances of this happening right now. So I guess it works.”
For over 20 years, Southern Cloud has been a combination of Miltonvale and Glasco.
“They are in about the same situation as Hope and White City and are about the same distance apart,” he said. “We visited with some schools that have done this to see how they do it and each one has their own way they do it.”
This year’s Lady Lions’ basketball team has eight players, like it did a season ago, which makes it impossible to play a junior varsity game.
“You play a little differently,” Riedy said. “No. 1: stay out of foul trouble. I have battled this all my life I have been at small schools. The nice thing last year was that all eight of the girls could play. Sometimes you have some kids that don’t get in, because they are young. So far, even though we’ve had low numbers, all of the kids had some talent.”
Riedy coached for 29 years, winning a state championship at Wheatland and taking the Lady Lions to a third place finish. His record as a head coach was 534-219. He now assists the Abilene High School girls’ program.
Despite being small, Hope has been successful qualifying for the playoffs. The football team missed the playoffs this fall for only the second time in 20 years. The boys’ Lions basketball team had back-to-back years, placing in the Class 1A Division II state tournament.
The board of education discussed the merger at the last meeting and the issue is expected to be on table in future meetings. However, a change would not effect the 2013-2014 schedules.
“We do have two or three girls that do want to play somewhere, so we want to make sure we give them the opportunity,” Riedy said. “That’s what we are exploring, and I think explore is the key word here.
“We’ve made some proposals and I think it’s just a matter of tweaking them. See what works for both sides. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t and maybe we’ll go a different direction. There are some travel costs but when you don’t have as many coaches, you save some costs. I think it’s kind of a wash. The money you save on coaches you spend on travel costs. At least it’s a breakeven and not an extra expense.”
Combining Hope and White City most likely would move the athletic teams up to Class 2A.
“That doesn’t bother us a bit, going up to 2A,” Riedy said, adding that there are enough 2A schools for adequate scheduling.
The proposal is expecting to be on the December meeting of the Rural Vista school board.
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