Two members of the MHSAA’s executive staff live on the same side of the same town. Each lives less than a five-minute drive to the MHSAA building; and yet they live in differently named neighborhoods, taking the names of the public elementary schools which serve their sections of town and the school district.
Students of those two elementary schools feed the one and only public middle school of the district, which feeds the one and only public high school of the district. Historically, there would not be too much to deter the children raised in these two homes from attending the same schools.
However, if one of the families is Catholic, it might choose to send its children to the Catholic grade school located across the street from the public high school. And it might decide to send its children to high school at the Catholic high school in the town which neighbors to the west.
If one of the families were inclined, it might choose to home school its children before sending them to the district’s high school or to one of two Christian high schools nearby.
Or perhaps one of the families would choose to send one of their children to a charter school near the location of the mother’s employment. Perhaps another child would be a school of choice student at a traditional high school convenient to the father’s place of work but in a different school district. These are common occurrences today that were rare just 15 years ago.
A multitude of other factors could affect the choice of school:
One school might be better known than others for a particular curriculum strength, or it might have a strong reputation in drama or music or sports, or in one particular sport.
Children are more likely today to have mingled on non-school youth sports teams and to decide to stay together for high school teams.
High school students might attend the same summer camps and be attracted to a different group of kids or a coach, and transfer to join the new group or coach.
As families relocate more frequently, students are required to transfer; and as the nuclear family becomes less stable, students are more often forced to change domestic settings, and change schools.
These and other factors – some worthy or unavoidable, some unhealthy and contrived – add up to the following:
During the entire 1986-87 school year, the MHSAA Executive Committee processed 96 requests by member schools to waive eligibility rules, and 58 of those requests were for student transfers.
25 years later, the total requests for the school year were 462; and of those, 337 were to waive the transfer section of the eligibility regulation.
This demonstrates in numbers what we have observed to be true: that during the past quarter century, the clientele of high school athletics has become five times more mobile. It’s one of school sports’ greatest challenges.