Maryland has made a monumental decision that will affect Montgomery County’s high school boys’ and girls’ tennis teams in the years to come.
The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA), announced that all school districts in the state must schedule their sports seasons around the same time of the regional and state championships for the 2018-2019 school year. Therefore, girls tennis teams must play in the spring next year, since that is when their state championship occurs.
This decision has quickly become controversial as many players and coaches oppose the season shift for many reasons. Coach Mitchell Duque, coach of both WJ tennis teams, opposes this decision because the whole tennis schedule is changed for only a few players.
“The only reason we are being asked to change is for the girls players to be eligible to compete in the state tournament at the end of the year,” Duque said. “It makes no sense for us to harm our entire program when 98% of the girls players will not even be competing in the state tournament.”
Both of WJ’s tennis teams could face many challenges next year when this mandate goes into effect. First, having the boys’ and girls’ seasons at the same time will result in a lack of court space. Junior Karina Mobley is against this decision because more players will be cut at next year’s tryouts.
“I’m extremely against the change for girls tennis to the spring season,” Mobley said, “because having it in the fall means more people can try out and we have space on the eight courts. In the spring with both teams, there’ll be smaller teams and less court space.”
Additionally, according to Duque, practice times could be pushed back. Coaches will be forced to choose which team they want to coach. Also, the match format could be altered to make games shorter and the starting team could be cut down from 10 players this year to only seven next season. All of these changes have serious implications that may reduce participation in both boys’ and girls’ tennis.
Despite this clear opposition, MCPS athletic director Jeff Sullivan cited a clear reason why Maryland required Montgomery County to have both tennis teams play in the spring like the rest of the state.
“Members of other school districts believed Montgomery County held an advantage because their girls could play outside the club circuit during the off-season, right before they headed into the regional and state tournaments.” Sullivan said.
There are many predictions on what will happen in the 2019 tennis season, but we’ll just have to wait until next year to see what happens.