Published Oct. 6, 2022
By AINSLEY HENDERSON
After witnessing a rise in the number of students participating in the fall sports season, some CHS sports programs, including football, field hockey, tennis and boys’ water polo, have taken measures such as cohorted teams to mitigate the strain.
“In field hockey and football we got to a point where we just stopped taking new folks,” Carmel High athletic director Golden Anderson says. “Having larger rosters, you always have more equipment than you need, but we’re to the point now where we’re right up against having more players than equipment.
Football, which has 96 combined varsity and junior varsity players, compared to 81 during the 2021 season, has nearly run out of gear, with only two leftover helmets and around eight leftover pads. Being a full-contact sport, equipment breaks easily, meaning that extras are always needed. If there aren’t any, the program is forced to stop taking players.
“We’re trying to keep as many people as we can,” says Anderson, who also acts as the varsity head coach for the CHS football program. “But at some point, we had to put some structure around it because the teams also have to get together, bond, learn and then move on.”
For sports like girls’ tennis and boys’ water polo, which are encouraged to not cut players, the issue was not a lack of equipment, but instead an overwhelming number of people trying out for the team. During the 2021 season, tennis had 17 players and water polo had 39. This year, tennis currently has 23 players and water polo has 44.
Tennis, which typically has four available courts, had a court vandalized at the beginning of the year as well, reducing them to three playable courts for several weeks.
“Somebody poured some motor oil on the court, so we had to dig it out and patch it,” says Leslie Tracy, who has coached tennis at CHS for eight years. “That left me with three courts and 27 girls. We had to quickly think on our feet, and we decided to split the team into two cohorts; we have a red and a gray.”
Because the tennis program does not have a JV coach, members of the gray team practice on Mondays alongside the red team and have solo practices on Fridays, limiting the amount of time they get on the court. The red team practices Monday through Thursday. During matches, players are able to scale up or down between teams depending on their skill level.
Like tennis, water polo experienced an outpouring of freshman and sophomore candidates, causing head coach John Norall to split the JV team, composed of 29 players, into two separate cohorts. Each cohort plays a minimum of 12 games during the season, ensuring that everyone has their time in the water.
“COVID gutted our program,” Norall says. “Before COVID, with previous coaching staffs, we’ve had 60 to 65 kids–that’s a lot for a water polo program. Now people are starting to know that there’s a water polo program, and people want to join. I think that we’ll continue to see growth into next year, and then we’ll even out.”
Anderson speculates that the spike in freshman and sophomore players may be related to the new physical education rules, which require sophomores to participate in PE classes instead of solely freshmen. At CHS, students are allowed to play a fall sport instead of taking PE, which some freshmen do. Now that there are sophomores in PE as well, it means that there are more students opting out of PE and electing to play a fall sport, likely leading to the increase of underclassmen on JV teams.
While the majority of fall sports have seen a participation increase, girls’ golf and girls’ water polo have not. Golf, which had 11 players during the 2021 season, currently has the same number, while water polo, which had 28 players last year, is down two.