South Carolina High School League should focus on public schools

The South Carolina High School League (SCHSL) is an organization that, according to its mission statement, “provides governance and leadership for interscholastic athletic programs that promote, support, and enrich the educational experience of students.”

The league was originally designed to only serve public high schools in South Carolina.

Private and charter school athletics in South Carolina are run by the South Carolina Independent School Association (SCISA), which functions like the SCHSL. Schools compete against other schools of the same size, but SCISA divisions only go up to 3A.

Despite the fact that they have their own league, some private schools compete in the SCHSL. Schools such as Christ Church Episcopal School, Oceanside Collegiate Academy and Bishop England High School play public schools in all sports and compete against them for region, Upper State, Lower State and state championships.

This should not be allowed. If private schools have their own league, then they should compete in their own league. They should not be allowed to compete with public schools for region and playoff titles.

Private schools are immediately at an advantage in athletics because they can recruit athletes. For example, Bishop England High School dominated the 3A girls tennis state championship for 10 years, and for three of those years, they defeated a very strong Chapman team.

Last year, my opponent from Bishop England was a senior from Texas. I later found out that she had been recruited to come play for Bishop England.

Public schools cannot legally recruit athletes, so why should they compete with schools who can? Chapman’s success on the tennis court is because a group of players who live in the Inman-Campobello area just happened to start taking lessons from a man in Landrum named Cary Davenport and slowly became old enough to play for the team. There was no recruiting involved; as surprising as it sounds, it was all chance.

If the Lady Panthers had played any Lower State public school for the last four years, I’m confident that we would have won each time. Our only obstacles have been private schools.

The dominant nature of private schools over public schools has been demonstrated time and time again. As mentioned earlier, Bishop England won the girls tennis state championship for ten years. This year, Oceanside Collegiate Academy, an athletic magnet school, defeated Chapman for the title. In volleyball this year, private schools won in the 1A, 2A, and 3A divisions, the victors being Southside Christian School, St. Joseph’s Catholic School, and Oceanside Collegiate Academy, respectively.

If private schools only played private schools in region and playoff matches, and public schools only played public schools in region and playoff matches, the competition would be fair. Private schools would play other schools that recruit athletes and take time out of the school day for their athletes to practice, and public schools would play schools that don’t.

It is my firm belief that the SCHSL must become public school-only. Only then will it effectively serve its schools and truly ensure that athletics promote, support, and enrich education.