PIERRE — With the creation of the All Nations Football Conference, Native American schools in South Dakota have seen a 60% to 70% increase in participation.
The South Dakota High School Activities Association board of directors heard this news at its Wednesday meeting. SDHSAA Executive Director Dan Swartos characterized the conference’s inaugural season as “very successful.”
This year 12 tribal schools came together to form the conference. The conference’s first championship game will be played Friday at the Dakota Dome in Vermillion between Crow Creek and Lower Brule.
“It seemed to bring a lot of life to those programs,” Swartos said of the creation of the new football conference. “It did exactly what they wanted it to do.”
Board member Dave Planteen of Langford had a chance to attend an All Nations game.
“The atmosphere was just great,” Planteen said.
Swartos was reporting to the board about a meeting of the association’s Native American advisory board. Another topic of the advisory board meeting was increasing the number of Native American basketball officials.
A recruitment program had at one time been funded by the state, but that funding has since ended.
“We’re still looking at how to fund that,” Swartos said.
Activities board gets advice about nine-man football
Schools with vigorous youth football programs have better participation in nine-man football. That observation was offered to the SDHSAA board of directors at its meeting Wednesday.
During the public forum portion of the board’s agenda, Dave Schumacher, a youth football coach from Herreid, told the board that numbers are slipping in nine-man football participation. He said the 9B teams average 22 players, 9A teams average 29 players and 9AA teams average 31 players.
Back when he played, Schumacher said, there were often as many as 50 players on a team.
“When you don’t have enough (players) to practice with, games get cancelled,” Schumacher said, and players lose interest.
Getting students interested in football at an early age is the key to maintaining that interest through the varsity level, according to Schumacher.
“Youth programs have successful varsity programs,” Schumacher said.
Schumacher said more emphasis needs to be placed on junior varsity games.
“JV football has really been kicked to the curb,” Schumacher said.
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Schumacher said he would like to see a rule making it mandatory that junior varsity games must be played prior to varsity games at the nine-man level.
Swartos said the association won’t tell schools that they can’t play JV games prior to varsity games. One of the problems, Swartos said, is when players are on both the JV and varsity squads.
SDHSAA Assistant Executive Director Jo Auch advised Schumacher to offer his idea to his school district as well as area nine-man football coaches. Then he could present the idea at the annual meeting of the football advisory committee.
The football advisory committee is scheduled to meet at the SDHSAA office in Pierre from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 2.
Rule changes backed by the SDHSAA’s advisory committees are forwarded to the annual meeting of athletic directors. From there they go to the SDHSAA board for action.
SDHSAA board formalizes goals
Having had a lengthy discussion at its strategic planning session in August, on Wednesday the board of directors formalized its goals for the 2019-20 school year.
Chief among the goals were plans to develop new revenue and explore new sports or activities.
Swartos said he attended an electronic sports event at Dakota State University in Madison. He said 15 South Dakota schools have E-sports teams with as many as 50 other schools considering adding the activity.
Other new sports on the association’s radar are girls’ softball and girls’ wrestling.
“We hear a lot about baseball,” Swartos said.
The board’s goal for new revenue includes exploring a bid process for SDHSAA state events. That goal also includes recommending changes to the management fees paid to schools that host state and sub-state events with the goal of being able to pay more to those schools.
Other goals include:
Develop a request for proposal for merchandise sales at state events.
Review the structure of advisory committees.
Simplify and articulate the SDHSAA mission, vision and beliefs.
Board member Dave Planteen of Langford said another goal should be the recruitment and retention of officials.
Auch said that is an ongoing goal of the association. She reported that 47 new officials have been recruited for the basketball season.