Years ago, the Guam Department of Education and the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam were two separate programs.
This meant that public high school student-athletes had to play each other more than twice in a season – before the playoffs. Private schools had to do the same. There’s nothing wrong with playing three or even four games against another school, but with only four public high schools at the time, the number of games was necessary if they were going to fill the season because the pool was shallow.
In the mainland, schools have several layers of competition — city, county, state, regional and national. On Guam, our geography limits students’ opportunities to test and take their skills to the next level.
A trip to nearby Saipan or Japan can cost parents and coaches several hundred to several thousand dollars.
Fortunately, the two athletic programs came together. And even with the six public high schools we have now, there’s a difference between a school playing against five other schools versus playing against 12 other schools. The pool of talent is wider and deeper – and the athletes benefit from that increased breadth of competition.
In the last several years, we’ve watched as young student-athletes from local high schools made a name for themselves at the college level. We believe high school sports and the vigorous competition between many schools played a role in sharpening those natural abilities.
The loss of the experience of playing a wider variety of challengers is a concern that many stakeholders have shared as the divide between GDOE’s athletic programs and IIAAG has grown so wide that the Guam Education Board decided it was too wide to cross.
In severing that connection, we also may have made the pool of competition smaller. And our children may pay that price unless we ensure otherwise.
Veteran coach Al Garrido is GDOE’s acting program coordinator for interscholastic sports and, according to GDOE, has been working with principals, athletic directors, and student-athletes to ensure a smooth transition.
Many people know Garrido, who himself has children who are athletes in schools, is passionate about encouraging kids to reach their greatest potential. But he needs GDOE’s support to ensure that our children’s athletic opportunities grow and not diminish.
We take heart in his comments in a GDOE news release: “I am excited to work with the IIAAG and our schools to create a successful sports program that supports our students, coaches, and schools.”
He added: “We also want to work with private schools or charter schools that may be interested in participating and contributing to an inclusive and competitive sports environment. … Any schools that are interested in competing are more than welcome to participate.”
Whatever caused the divide, we hope that GDOE and IIAAG are able to ensure it doesn’t hurt our children’s chances to grow as athletes and individuals. That would be a loss for all teams.